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Full text of "Kenya Birds"

Kenya Binds 



Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2 



ISSN 1023-3679 



December 1997 



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A joint publication of the Department of Ornithology, National Museums of 
Kenya and the Bird Committee of the East Africa Natural History Society 
Editors: Leon Bennun and Colin Jackson 
Department of Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya, P O Box 40658, Nairobi 



Editorial 

Welcome to the special Samburu double issue of Kenya Birds. Why a double issue? Well, 
it's a longish story — in essence, the Bird Committee has decided to move to publication 
dates in March and October (rather than June and December) for the magazine. This 
issue should have been out last October — combining the two issues for 1997, and 
putting us on track for volume 7(1) to appear in March 1998. 

Well, it was a nice idea. . . As it turns out this double issue, despite its cover date, is rather 
more than six months late, and we apologise to all our (very patient) readers. There's a 
simple reason for this delay — the editors are overworked! Better late, we hope, than 
never; and we hope too that you will enjoy the wide variety of articles and notes together 
with Edwin Selempo's illustrations of Samburu birds. This issue covers news up to the 
end of 1997 and records up to but not including World Birdwatch '97 on 4-5 October — 
we'll report on the many interesting records from that event in the next issue. 

If all goes well, volume 7(1) will follow now in short order. We will circulate 
subscription forms for vol. 7 when that issue appears (though if you'd like to pay your 
subscription now, please feel free to do so!). 

While still on the mechanics of Kenya Birds, a large 'thank you' is due to John 
Fanshawe, who has retired from the editorial team. John has been closely involved with 
producing the magazine from the very start, back in 1992, and we hope he may still 
occasionally put his shoulder to the wheel where necessary. We will not be an editor short 
for long, as Joseph Oyugi is re-joining us in time for the next issue. In the meantime, 
please keep those records and articles pouring in! 

Good birding! — The Editors 



Subscription rates for Volume 7 

Kenya Abroad (airmail) 

Sponsor KSh 500 UK £10.00 

EANHS member KSh 150 UK £6.00 

Non-member KSh 250 UK £7.50 

Special (student/exchange/library) please write please write 



Please make cheques payable to 'BirdLife Kenya'. Subscribers outside Kenya may pay in 
any convertible currency. Back issues are available at KSh 125/= each. 

Please address all correspondence to: The Editors, Kenya Birds, Department of 
Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya, P O Box 40658 Nairobi, Kenya. 

Front cover illustration: Somali Courser Cursorius somalensis by Edwin Selempo. 
Printed by Omnia Printers, Nairobi. 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 1 



News from Kenya and ab 
Department of Ornithology 



TH€ NATUffAL 
Oad DAY MUfiUM 

-8 JUL 1998 



PURCHASED 
TRING LIBRARY 



Training for bird guides and gamebird scouts 

'Fundamentals of Ornithology', the field course for profes 
for the third time from 20-25 April 1997, this time at Delamere's Camp, 
Elmenteita. The twenty participants came from a range of tour companies and 
hotels. Elmenteita was a lovely setting, good for both waterbirds and landbirds, 
and of course both food and accommodation were top-notch. The only dampener 
was the extremely wet weather — those not used to highland forest fieldwork 
found the dawn excursion to Kieni, in torrential rain, something of a strain 
(though we did manage to hear and see some interesting birds during breaks in 
the downpour). The raptor-watching session nearly proved a washout too, but 
fortunately sunlight broke briefly through the menacing clouds and a surprising 
number of birds of prey came floating past. Altogether a very enjoyable week for 
both trainees and trainers. 

There was rather a different setting for our next field course, 'An introduction 
to gamebird biology', which was held at Enkijabe Primary School, Imbirikani 
Group Ranch, from 25 May to 1 June 1997, with support from the COBRA 
project of Kenya Wildlife Service. The participants were 12 present or potential 
gamebird scouts from five group ranches in the Amboseli area. The course aims 
were to teach appropriate skills for gamebird monitoring and management, and 
also to demonstrate the potential of bird shooting for revenue generation. As 
well as a teaching team from the Department, visiting lecturers came from 
Kenya Wildlife Service, African Wildlife Foundation and the professional 
hunting fraternity. 

Imbirikani town itself, the headquarters of the gamebird project, is a small, 
bare, dusty settlement that at first glance looks an unpromising site for a training 
course. However, it is easily accessible from Nairobi and the other group 
ranches in the area, and surrounded by interesting habitat containing a variety 
gamebird species. The Enkijabe Teacher's Advisory Centre proved an excellent 
lecture room, once we had bought some shukas for curtains and set up a portable 
generator (courtesy of Ker and Downey) to run the audio-visual equipment. 
Magnificent views of Kilimanjaro, looking close enough to touch, were a bonus 
during tea-breaks. Tents loaned by Bonham Safaris and beds from the school 
took care of accommodation for everyone, and one of the small 'hotels' in town 
catered for food (highly rated, despite — or because of? — a very heavy accent 
on goat stew). 



2 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

After six days of lectures, field exercises and practicals in different habitats, 
participants returned to their group ranches fired up to initiate gamebird 
management programmes like the one already in place on Mbirikani. Another 
course, this time based at Mpala Ranch in Laikipia District, is planned for April 
1998. 

Gamebird surveys show spurfowl are under-shot 

Imbirikani Group Ranch in Kajiado District is the focus of the Department's 
gamebird project (see previous Kenya Birds). The project is working to set up 
community systems for managing sport-hunting of gamebirds, and monitoring 
their populations. In April 1997 a wet-season survey was carried out to assess 
the numbers of three important gamebird species on the ranch and their habitat 
requirements. The results show that the highest gamebird numbers were in 
bushland, which held densities twice as high as wooded grassland or open 
grassland. Yellow-necked Spurfowl was the commonest of the three species, 
with around 90 birds per km 2 on average. Spurfowl densities were roughly 
similar in all habitats, but group sizes were much bigger in the open grassland 
— perhaps because the lack of cover makes the birds more vulnerable to 
predation. Helmeted Guineafowl and Crested Francolin did not venture into the 
open grassland at all, but while the guineafowl were present at low numbers 
(about 14 birds per km 2 ) in both woodland and bushland, the francolins much 
preferred the bushland (50 birds per km 2 ) and were rare in the woodland (just 
seven birds per km 2 ). 

Overall, spurfowl preferred areas with good ground and tree cover, 
suggesting that they are choosing the least-degraded areas of the ranch. It is 
estimated that between 67,000 and 154,000 spurfowl occur on Imbirikani, with 
plenty of potential for increasing the numbers that are shot. The populations of 
francolins and guineafowl are much smaller, and offtake levels probably can rise 
only slightly. 

Based on the survey results, long-term monitoring transects were set up and 
monthly data are being collected. In the dry season, spurfowl densities on the 
transects dropped substantially — it turned out that the birds were concentrating 
in enclosures that had been fenced off near bomas for use by calves in the dry 
season. These enclosures have substantial food and cover and appeared to be dry 
season 'refuges' for the birds. Local densities here reached the equivalent of an 
amazing 3,800 birds per km 2 — more than 40 times the average density on the 
wet-season transects! 

The heavy el niho rains that started in November 1997 have put a temporary 
stop to the monitoring, but (weather permitting) the intention is to collect a full 
year's data in order to assess seasonal changes in the location and abundance of 
these gamebird species. 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 3 

How long will it take for us to lose biodiversity? — on Mt Kenya 

After working in Kakamega with Joseph Oyugi (Ornithology Department) 
through September 1996 (see Kenya Birds 5(2): 51), we carried out the last 
fieldwork component of the collaborative Ornithology Department/University of 
Tennessee biodiversity project on Mt Kenya in October-November 1996. The 
field team comprised Thomas Brooks and Christine Wilder (University of 
Tennessee), John Kageche (Ornithology Department) and Joe Tobias (University 
of Cambridge), with additional help from Titus Imboma (Ornithology 
Department), David Gitau and Silvester Karimi (Nairobi Ringing Group) and 
Jim Barnes (University of East Anglia). 

We surveyed seven patches of indigenous montane forest (ranging in size 
from 1-100 ha) at the lowest extent (2,000 m) of the south-western flank of Mt 
Kenya, near to the Forest Department stations at Chehe and Ragati. Our sincere 
gratitude goes to the staff of these stations for all of their help. In each forest 
fragment we carried out our standard procedure of extensive bird surveys, mist- 
netting and vegetation surveys. We also briefly surveyed plantations of 
Cupressus lusitanica and Vitex keniensis, which held very large numbers of 
migrant birds — a finding also reported in 1986 by Allan Carlson for plantations 
north of Kijabe (Biological Conservation 35: 195-204). Another interesting 
element of fieldwork was the abundance of elephants in our study sites, which 
made fieldwork difficult at times! 

Much to our surprise, these tiny forests still held most of the forest bird 
species found across Mt Kenya as a whole, including rarities like African Green 
Ibis, African Crowned Eagle and Orange Ground Thrush. This is probably a 
result of the fact that although cultivation is eating away at the margin of the Mt 




Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse — Edwin Selempo 



4 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

Kenya forest, corridors of scrub persist along streams and connect the patches, 
'rescuing' otherwise isolated bird populations. 

The few Mt Kenya species that we did not find fall into three categories: 
those restricted to higher altitudes (e.g., Abyssinian Ground Thrush), those that 
undertake seasonal altitudinal movements (e.g., most of the montane starlings) 
and those reaching the extreme limits of their ranges on Mt Kenya. It is this 
latter group that is of cause for concern, and we suspect that a several species, 
including African Broadbill and Black-headed Apalis may now be close to 
extinction in the region. 

In spite of this, the conservation status of birds on Mt Kenya is relatively 
encouraging, thanks to the joint activities of the Forest Department and the 
Kenya Wildlife Service. Although faced with a serious problem in the form of 
well-armed poachers of the forest's valuable camphor trees, these institutions 
are, thankfully, doing a very good job of protecting Mt Kenya's montane forests, 
at least in this part of the mountain. 

We closed the field component of our project in December 1996 with visits to 
Kenya from the USA of two of the projects collaborators, Stuart Pimm 
(University of Tennessee) and Bob Honea (Oak Ridge National Laboratory). 
This led into the final part of the project, which took place in Tennessee in 1997 
(see below). — Thomas Brooks, P O Box 40658, Nairobi. 

Waterbird counts 1997 

The usual wetlands in the Rift Valley were counted in January 1997, along with 
Kimana Swamp and the Amboseli wetlands, and a collection of smaller sites 
around Nairobi. The results were generally similar to 1996. Flamingos were 
again in relatively low numbers, with only around 365,000 in total on the 'big' 
sites, including 193,000 at Bogoria, 74,000 at Elmenteita and 70,000 at Nakuru. 
Other waterbirds were more numerous than in 1996, continuing a slow 
resurgence in numbers — 63,000 were counted at the Rift Valley sites, Amboseli 
and Kimana, compared to some 45,000 the previous year. There were strong 
increases at Bogoria (11,600, up from 4,800), Elmenteita (16,600, up from 
9,500) and even Nakuru (3,000, up from 2,000, with another 2,800 at the sewage 
treatment works). The Naivasha lakes were stable, with around 20,500 
waterbirds, the same as 1996. A total of 8,800 waterbirds was clocked up for 
Dandora Sewage Treatment Works, including 1,000 Little Grebes, 1,400 
Northern Shoveler and 1,500 White- winged Tern. Other notable records 
included 1,900 Great White Pelicans at Elmenteita (a welcome return of this 
species), 4,200 Pied Avocets at the same site, an impressive 1,400 Little Grebes 
together with seven Great Crested Grebes on Oloidien, Naivasha's small satellite 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 5 

lake and 370 African Jacanas in Amboseli. Only four Maccoa Duck were 
recorded this year, on Naivasha, and no Darters. 

The July 1997 count at Lake Nakuru recorded similarly low numbers of 
flamingos — 87,000, a slight increase on January. Over five thousand of these 
were young birds. Numbers of other waterbirds were also nearly constant on the 
lake, at 2,800, despite the absence of Palaearctic migrants at this time of the 
year. Only 870 birds were counted at the two sewage works. 

The July 1997 count had an unhappy ending. Three volunteer counters (Peter 
Le Pelley, Jennifer Oduori and Justus Kyalo) were seriously injured when their 
vehicle was involved in an accident near Nakuru, as they travelled back to 
Nairobi. Fortunately, all have now made a good recovery. 

The 1997 waterbird counts were supported financially by the Ramsar Bureau 
and Kenya Wildlife Service. 

Bird crew heads to the hills 

Ornithological work on the Taita Hills project has been in full swing since 
February 1997. David Gitau has been ringing, measuring and colour-banding 
birds, and taking blood samples, in the different fragments in turn. Edward 
Waiyaki, assisted by Kariuki Ndang'ang'a, has been trapping, radio-tagging and 
following Taita Thrushes in Chawia and Ngangao, using a special radio- 
transmitter design developed for Blackbirds Turdus merula (and extensively 
tested for safety) in the UK. Mwangi Githiru has been counting and watching 
frugivores and censusing fruiting trees as part of his study of the potential effects 
of fragmentation on seed dispersal. Luc Lens from the University of Antwerp 
made several visits to the hills to collect additional data and to supervise the I 
work. 

In December 1997, Gitau, Waiyaki, Mwangi and Luc all took part in the 
international conference on the Eastern Arc mountains in Morogoro, Tanzania. 
The Taita Hills are the northernmost outlier of the Eastern Arc, one of the 
continent's most important centres of endemism. Preliminary results of the 
project were presented in a number of posters. Already, the ringing data show 
clear differences in species' mobility: some, like Olive Sunbird and Stripe- 
cheeked Greenbul, seem to be able to move between fragments easily, while 
others are much more sedentary. There is also growing evidence from their 
biometrics that birds in the smaller and more disturbed fragments are under 
environmental stress. 

A molecular sex-probe has allowed sex-ratios to be assessed for the Taita 
Thrush, with some disturbing findings. The thrush occurs in the three largest 
fragments, Chawia, Ngangao and Mbololo. Of the three, Mbololo is the biggest 
and most intact and Chawia the smallest and most disturbed. Only in Mbololo 



6 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

arc the numbers of male and female thrushes equal; in Chawia, just one out of 
ten birds (10%) turned out to be female, and at Ngangao only nine out of 23 
(39%). The reason why females, are less common in small fragments is not yet 
known, but the finding has worrying implication's for the species' survival. On 
the other hand, Taita Thrushes have now been captured, to everyone's surprise, 
in the tiny fragment of Yale, showing that under some circumstances they may 
be able to persist in small fragments after all. 

Bird research in the Taita Hills — a view from the ground 

Our work started on 9 February 1997 with an aim of studying the effects of 
forest fragmentation on the biodiversity of Taita Hills forests. The work centres 
on the study of birds, insects and mammals. 

To start the project, we sampled the three biggest forest fragments — 
Chawia, Ngangao and Mbololo — over the course of around ten weeks. Our first 
study site was Chawia where we spent a week. On the evening of 10 February 
mist-nets were set in two sites in Chawia and controlled the following day, then 
shifted daily to other sites in the forest. Chawia had rather few birds, especially 
the endemics. A few Taita White-eyes were ringed and larger numbers seen. Just 
two Taita thrushes were seen and none ringed, and there was no sign of the Taita 
Apalis. We ringed 69 birds in total, a mixture of new birds and retraps of birds 
caught by Tom Brooks' team the previous year (see Kenya Birds 5(2)). 

On the morning of 16 February we closed and took down the nets at 10:00, 
broke camp and shifted to Ngangao. On the same day in the afternoon nets were 
pitched in our new study area, and controlled the following day. Ngangao was 
really a forest for birding. We spent a whole month here with intensive mist 
netting and other general surveying. The forest always had something interesting 
to offer, including all three endemic Taita hills birds. Despite the dry weather, 
these were breeding. We found a pair of Taita Apalis with young in the nest, and 
a juvenile Taita Thrush was caught at our last site. We ringed a total of 18 bird 
species including 300 individuals birds among which were 21 Taita Thrushes. 

Nets were closed and brought down on 15 March in readiness to take off to 
the next fragment — Mbololo. Edward Waiyaki arrived the same day with 
transport. By this time, rain was threatening, which gave us cause for some 
concern. On 18 March we made a general survey of the forest and pitched nets 
in the evening. Nets were opened the following morning and controlled the 
whole day — a successful session with about four Taita Thrushes. The rain 
poured steadily the following afternoon but after a fine morning of ringing. 
Thereafter the rains were quite unpredictable — it was impossible to tell 
whether the day would be fine or rained off completely, and there was often 
thick mist as well. To be on the safe side, David Gitau and I stayed behind as 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 7 

Waiyaki returned for Nairobi. The weather was against us, though, and the mist 
and rain greatly reduced our daily catch. We spent a total of four weeks in 
Mbololo and managed to catch about 165 new* birds and 13 that were ringed last 
year. 

Mobile Olive Sunbirds and hornbills 

All the three fragments had quite a number of Olive Sunbirds, which were 
commonly seen and trapped. Other common sunbirds were the Eastern Double- 
collared Sunbird, Collared Sunbird and the Variable Sunbird, which was always 
seen at the forest edge. I was always surprised by how many Olive Sunbirds we 
would catch without obtaining a single retrap. On 6 March 1997 at 08:30 h we 
caught an Olive Sunbird in Ngangao that had been ringed by us on 12 February 
in Chawia, about 18 km away. Evidently this species is moving both within and 
between fragments, presumably in response to local food supply or other 
conditions. 

Other local migration was seen in Silvery-cheeked Hornbills. The hornbills 
were all over Chawia for the whole time we were there, but we only saw them 
once in Ngangao, on 11 March. In Mbololo, we arrived on 18 March and saw 
hornbills for the first time on 29 March. A good number of birds arrived and 
stayed for about a week before disappearing. Hornbills are known to move a 
good deal in response to local concentrations of fruiting trees. 

Barbets chase off brood parasites 

Brood parasites do not always have things their own way. On 21 February I 
watched a family of four Spot-flanked Barbet (two adults and two immature 
birds) making a great deal of noise around their nest hole, in a branch in an 
Albizia tree. At noon that day, out of nowhere, a Lesser Honeyguide arrived 
.With full confidence, it made an attempt to enter the nest in presence of the 
barbets. Two barbets physically fought the honeyguide outside the nest while the 
rest stayed inside the nest making a tremendous noise. The honeyguide 
eventually gave up the fight and flew away. Immediately after it had left, an egg 
was removed from the nest by the barbets inside and passed over to the barbets 
outside, who in turn broke it and threw it away. Afterwards, there was no more 
noise from the barbets. 

General status of the fragments 

Chawia forest was highly degraded. There was a way through the forest which 
enable the local people enter the forest whenever they wished for various 
purposes, including firewood collection. The cypress and Eucalyptus plantations 
surrounding the natural forest are spreading into it and degrading the forest 



8 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

more. Even though not many old pit- saw sites are seen, the forest still seems to 
be under human pressure. The forest is dominated by two main indigenous trees, 
Tabernaemontana and Albizia. These two form the top canopy. A lot of wild 
coffee forms most of the lower and mid canopy. 

Ngangao on the other hand is among the best forests in Taita hills despite of 
its many old pit-saw sites. It has a range of trees from pioneer species to real 
forest interior ones. Common pioneer species include Phoenix palms, Bridelia 
micrantha and Maesa lanceolata. Celtis and Ficus species are also common. 
The forest lacks the bigger trees (removed by logging in the late 1960s and early 
1970s) but Meru Oak Vitex keniensis shows good regeneration. The tree seems 
to be growing evenly in Ngangao, and is an important one for birds. If the forest 
department could consider this tree in its annual plantation programme, it could 
greatly help to enrich biodiversity. 

Mbololo is yet another good forest, with large old trees. Not much logging 
seems to have been done even though old pit-saw sites were found. The forest is 
much more remote and inaccessible than Ngangao, and large logging vehicles 
probably could not easily manage the steep, winding road up from Voi. — Titus 
Imboma, P O Box 40658, Nairobi 

How long will it take for us to lose biodiversity? — in Tennessee! 

The final part of the collaborative Ornithology Department/University of 
Tennessee project to assess the length of the time lag between deforestation and 
bird extinction (see Kenya Birds 5(1): 1) was carried out over the spring of 1997. 
The location of the work was now Knoxville, Tennessee, USA, where Thomas 
Brooks is writing up the results of the project for his PhD, under the supervision 
of Stuart Pimm. Pimm generously hosted Kenyan ornithologists Joseph Oyugi 
and John Kageche (Ornithology Department/Moi University) in Knoxville, with 
funding from the National Geographic Society (Research Award #5542-95) and 
his Pew Fellowship in conservation. 

Oyugi 's work in Tennessee focused on analyzing his data collected in 
Kakamega in August-December 1996 (see Kenya Birds 5(2): 51) for his MSc 
thesis for the Department of Wildlife Management, Moi University. Oyugi used 
the many measurements that he took of vegetation in the main Kakamega forest 
to predict bird populations in the surrounding fragments. He then compared this 
with the results of his bird surveys in these fragments, to assess which species 
are affected by forest fragmentation over and above the changes suffered by the 
vegetation. His results indicate that understorey insectivores (like Brown- 
chested Alethe) and canopy foliage-gleaners (like Uganda Woodland Warbler 
and Green Hylia) have been particularly seriously impacted by the 
fragmentation of the Kakamega forests. 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 9 

Meanwhile, Kageche was writing his proposal for his MSc with the 
Department of Environmental Studies, Moi University. While in Tennessee, 
Kageche also analyzed the ringing data of the biodiversity project, and collected 
data on the human population and rate of deforestation in the Taita Hills, for a 
study with Bob Honea (Oak Ridge National Laboratory, USA). 

To supplement these specific projects, Oyugi, Kageche and Brooks made a 
trip to the northern USA in mid- June, to some of the world's largest museums. 
Funded by a grant from the American Museum of Natural History (New York), 
we also visited the Field Museum (Chicago), the Museum of Comparative 
Zoology (Boston) and the Smithsonian Institution (Washington, D.C.) — many 
thanks to the generosity of the curators of those museums. We examined over 
4,500 bird specimens from Kakamega, Mt Kenya and the Taita Hills, including 
rarities such as the only Kenyan record of Sooty Boubou Laniarius 
leucorhynchus and Splendid Glossy Starling Lamprotornis splendidus, which is 
now probably extinct in Kakamega, and we are preparing a series of papers 
based on these data. We also drove over 3,000 miles, and even managed to fit in 
a trip to Niagara Falls! 

We also managed to find a few other diversions to our academic efforts. 
Through April-May, Oyugi and Kageche worked in the Everglades National 
Park, Florida, with a project (directed by Pimm) on the endangered Cape Sable 
Seaside Sparrow Ammodramus maritimus mirabilis, which was educational, if 
excessively mosquito-ridden! Brooks, along with two other members of the 
biodiversity project, Christine Wilder from Tennessee, USA and Jim Barnes 
from Leeds, UK, visited in May, and we all had a chance to see interesting birds 
like American Flamingo Phoenicopterus ruber and the rare Snail Kite 
Rostrhamus sociabilis, and visit interesting places like the Big Cypress National 
Preserve — to say nothing of Key West! Back in Tennessee, we visited the Great 
Smoky Mountains National Park, the Chattanooga Aquarium (the world's 
biggest freshwater aquarium), and the Eastern State Wildlife Management Area 
in Knoxville (to see the amazing display of the American Woodcock Scolopax 
minor). 

Altogether, the trip was both productive and entertaining, and provided a 
fitting end to the biodiversity project. In conclusion, we would like to thank our 
sponsors, and everyone in the Ornithology Department (National Museums of 
Kenya), Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology (University of 
Tennessee), and the many people who helped us in Kakamega, the Taita Hills 
and Mt Kenya for doing so much to make the project a success.— Joseph Oyugi, 
John Kageche & Thomas Brooks, PO Box 40658, Nairobi < 



10 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

Ornithologists snare scholarships 

It has been a promising period for post-graduate scholarships, with several 
Department staff and associates securing support for further training. Oliver 
Nasirwa and Wenceslas Gatarabirwa have both been awarded a prestigious 
Wellcome Trust Fellowship in Biodiversity Conservation. The Fellowships will 
support their MSc course in Applied Ecology at the University of East Anglia, 
which started in September 1997. This will be followed by a year's research 
work in Kenya, supervised by the Department and by Bill Sutherland from 
UEA. Oliver plans to work on papyrus birds in Lake Victoria and Wenceslas on 
the Aberdare Cisticola. This is the first time these Fellowships have been offered 
and in world-wide competition only five were awarded — so we are very happy 
to have snagged two of them! 

Meanwhile, Edward Waiyaki has been awarded a scholarship for his PhD at 
the University of Antwerp by the Algemeen Bestuur Ontwikkeling- 
ssamenwerking (i.e., the Development Section) of the Belgian Government. This 
is a so-called 'sandwich' grant that will allow him to carry out fieldwork in 
Kenya on the Taita Thrush and write up his results in Antwerp, as well as 
making several shorter study visits to Belgium. Waiyaki will be supervised by 
Erik Matthysen and Luc Lens of the University of Antwerp and Andre Dhondt 
of Cornell University. Muchane Muchai, who recently completed his MPhil 
dissertation on Sharpe's Longclaw, secured a Claude Harris Leon Doctoral 
Fellowship that will provide support for his PhD at the Percy Fitzpatrick 
Institute of African Ornithology in Cape Town. Muchai will be working on the 
Yellowbreasted Pipit Hemimacronyx chloris, a South African grassland endemic 
that faces some similar conservation problems to Sharpe's Longclaw. He will be 
supervised by the Fitzstitute's Director, Morne du Plessis, and by David Allan of 
the Durban Museum. This is the inaugural year for both of these scholarship 
schemes,. too. 

Last but not least, Peter Njoroge, who has worked on Hinde's Babbler and 
more recently on the Important Bird Areas project, has been awarded an RSPB 
scholarship for a PhD at Reading University. Starting in October 1998, he will 
be working on the Seychelles Magpie Robin, one of the world's most 
endangered birds, supervised by Ken Norris of Reading and Debbie Pain of the 
RSPB. 

Students find the going rough 

1997 seems to have been a difficult year for Departmental Research Associates, 
who have variously faced problems caused by the unseasonal rains, unco- 
operative study animals and misbehaving machinery. 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 11 

Carter Ong continued her challenging work on the home range and behaviour 
of the Martial Eagle. These huge eagles hunt from an unusually high altitude and 
can move over enormous distances, so tracking a radio-tagged bird is unusually 
difficult — even if you can capture the eagle and tag it in the first place! 
Fortunately, several pairs of eagles nest within a few kilometres of Carter's base 
at Ami River, and despite problems with the trapping and with transmitters 
malfunctioning much new information is being obtained. 

It has not all been smooth sailing for Mburu Chege's Egyptian Vulture 
project either — this year none of the Hell's Gate birds has succumbed to 
poisoning, but they haven't succumbed to Mburu's attempts to capture them 
either. A battery of crafty methods has been tried (some of them sounding 
distinctly unpleasant for the researcher!), but the birds remain entirely 
unimpressed and, unfortunately, untagged. This has not stopped Mburu 
collecting data on behaviour and breeding biology — but it has been impossible 
to carry out the home-range work originally planned. 

Neither did Fabian Musila have much luck with his Sokoke Pipit studies. 
Fieldwork would have started in November 1997 — had not the Arabuko- 
Sokoke Forest been (literally) underwater thanks to the amazing el nino rains. It 
would have been interesting to find out if Sokoke Pipits could turn aquatic, but 
data collection has been postponed until the study sites are a little more 
accessible. 

Luca Borghesio of the University of Milan had an unfortunate start to his 
study of nothern Kenya forests when an accident forced him to abandon his 
planned fieldwork in Marsabit in April 1997. He returned in November for a trip 
to Mt Kulal, accompanied by Kariuki Ndang'ang'a (taking time off from the 
Taita Hills). This went more smoothly, despite the wet weather and general 
insecurity in the area, and the results are being written up. Luca will be back in 
April 1998 for a survey of the Leroghi Forest near Maralal. 



Request for information: Common Kestrels 

I am trying to locate nest sites of Common Kestrels Falco tinnunculus in 
Kenya for a study of their nesting and foraging habits. If you have recently 
seen these falcons nesting or showing other signs of breeding, such as 
mating or feeding the young, please inform me at the address below. I am 
particularly looking for an area with a good number of nesting pairs (five or 
more). I am interested only in our resident kestrels, not the migrants which 
may occur between October and March and which of course do not breed 
here. — George Amutete, Ornithology Department, National Museums of 
Kenya, P O Box 40658, Nairobi. 



12 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

East Africa Natural History Society 

OS-c and BirdLife Kenya merge 

Tuesday 5 August 1997 saw the inaugural meeting of the East Africa Natural 
History Society's new Bird Committee. This has been formed by the 
amalgamation of the two previous committees that dealt with birds: the 
Ornithological Sub-committee and BirdLife Kenya. The new committee will 
handle all the work that the previous committees were involved in, including 
bird records, the publication of Scopus and Kenya Birds, raising funds and 
awareness for conservation, and generally keeping an eye on bird conservation 
issues. The streamlined structure should allow members to communicate more 
easily and to work more effectively together — and the new name should be a 
good deal less confusing and easier to say! 

BirdLife African Partnership Meeting 

The East Africa Natural History Society, the BirdLife International Partner in 
Kenya, hosted the Third Meeting of the African Partnership of BirdLife 
International at Elsamere, Lake Naivasha, from 18-22 November 1997. 
Delegates attended from Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, 
Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, Sierra Leone, South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and 
Zimbabwe, together with the BirdLife Secretariat and the UK Royal Society for 
the Protection of Birds. The programme was very packed, including not just a 
good deal of formal Partnership business but a planning workshop for the GEF- 
funded project, 'African NGO-Government Partnerships for Sustainable 
Biodiversity Action'. This project will support the next phase of the Important 
Bird Areas programme in ten African countries, including Kenya (more on this 
in the next Kenya Birds). 

Some important decisions taken were to form a Council of the African 
Partnership (CAP) that will meet annually, to appoint a Technical Advisory 
Committee (taking over from the old IB A Steering Committee) and to admit 
Naturama (Burkina Faso), the Nigerian Conservation Foundation and the 
Ornithological Association of Zimbabwe (OAZ) as BirdLife Partners Designate. 

The el nino rains had set in firmly, and the weather was wet, but this did not 
stop a good deal of birding going on in between sessions. Eleonora's Falcons put 
in several guest appearances overhead during the tea-breaks and delegates 
enjoyed short excursions onto the. lake, to Hell's Gate (where the Nyanza Swifts 
put on an excellent display but Wailing Cisticolas proved elusive) and the 
Kinangop Plateau. The next meeting of CAP will be in Zimbabwe in June 1998. 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 13 

International 

Climate change and wildlife 

Climate change is having a major impact on the world's birds and other wildlife, 
warns 'Climate Change and Wildlife', a new report from BirdLife International 
and the World Wide Fund for Nature. In the UK, almost a third of 65 breeding 
bird species have shifted their laying dates forward by a statistically significant 
amount (an average of nine days) over the last 25 years. Ninety percent of the 5 
million Sooty Shearwaters that used to spend the non-breeding season off the 
west coast of the USA vanished between 1987 and 1994, due to changes in 
ocean surface temperature and ocean currents (reduced upwelling) associated 
with climate change. In the cloud forests of Costa Rica, many birds, including 
the Keel-billed Toucan and Blue-crowned Motmot, have extended their ranges 
up the mountain slopes. There are many other examples from other groups of 
animals and plants. The report warns that many organisms will be unable to shift 
their ranges quickly enough to cope with climate change, especially where (as in 
many parts of the world) natural habitats are scattered and fragmented. The 
impact of small recent changes in climate on wildlife is already very visible — 
what will be the effects of the large climate changes forecast for the next 
century? The disruptive effects of climate change on the ecosystems that support 
human existence, warns the report, are likely to be a serious threat to our own 
welfare. 

(For more information, see the EANHS Bulletin vol. 27(2/3) or the report 
'Climate Change and Wildlife' in the EANHS office and library.) 

Exciting new site for Orange-necked Partridge 

Endemic to the Southern Vietnamese lowlands Endemic Bird Area, Orange- 
necked Partridge Arborophila davidi is the least known member of its genus — 
indeed, it is known only from a single specimen collected in 1927. Despite brief 
sightings by a BirdLife team in Cat Tien National Park in 1991, the species has 
remained an enigma until now and is listed as one of the most critically 
threatened birds in Asia. 

The BirdLife Vietnam Programme has long suspected that this species occurs 
in the Cat Loc Nature Reserve, adjacent to Cat Tien. This has recently been 
confirmed by a team from the BirdLife International Vietnam Programme, 
Amsterdam University and the National Museum of Natural History, Leiden, the 
Netherlands. 

During a week-long visit to Cat Loc Nature Reserve in April 1997, Orange- 
necked Partridge was found to be common in a variety of habitats including 
scrub, bamboo and secondary evergreen forest. Its vocalizations and preference 



14 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



for hillslopes confirm that it is closely related to Bar-backed Partridge 
Arborophila brunneopectus. 

The team made over 25 sightings during the week. The species' tolerance of 
a range of disturbed habitats and the extent of suitable habitat outside the nature 
reserve all suggest that its current category of threat should be revised. However, 
since BirdLife's last visit to the site three years ago, much primary forest has 
been cleared inside the nature reserve to make way for commercial cashew-nut 
cultivation. 

Despite the fame of this site in supporting Vietnam's only known population 
of the Javan Rhinoceros Rhinoceros sondaicus, the reserve remains unprotected 
and forest destruction is proceeding unchecked and at an alarming rate. 

BirdLife's work in Vietnam is funded by the European Union. 




Green-backed Heron — Edwin Selempo 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 15 

World Birdwatch '97 

A special report 

With the theme '1,111 threatened bird species need your help!', World 
Birdwatch 1997 in Kenya was officially launched on 2 October at the Boulevard 
Hotel, Nairobi. More than 100 people attended the evening reception, where the 
British High Commissioner, Jeffrey James, was Guest of Honour and spoke 
entertainingly about his own birding experiences. 

Were it not for previous diplomatic commitments, the High Commissioner 
would certainly have joined the us on the Birdwatch weekend. He would have 
been in good company, as 300 people in more than 70 teams spent 4-5 October 
scouring nearly every corner of the country for birds. The response from 
birdwatchers all over Kenya was tremendous; more birders than ever, in more 
places than ever, took part, and most seem thoroughly to have enjoyed 
themselves. 

This year the event was focused on Kenya's threatened birds. Fourteen 
globally-threatened species were recorded, including Lesser Kestrel, Sokoke 
Scops Owl, Sokoke Pipit, Sharpe's Longclaw, Taita Thrush, East Coast Akalat, 
Hinde's Babbler, Papyrus Yellow Warbler, Turner's Eremomela, Aberdare 
Cisticola, Grey-crested Helmet- shrike, Abbott's Starling, Amani Sunbird and 
Clarke's Weaver. Another ten species on the list are globally near-threatened, 
including Madagascar Squacco Heron, Lesser Flamingo, Southern Banded 
Snake Eagle, Pallid Harrier, Fischer's Turaco, Malindi Pipit, Papyrus Gonolek, 
Red- throated Tit, Plain-backed Sunbird and Jackson's Widowbird. 

Once all the checklists had finally come in (some took a month or more to 
arrive) and had been vetted (also a time-consuming business!) the final tally 
stood at an impressive 777 species. BirdLife International has confirmed that 
this was the highest total for the weekend of any country in the world, so 
Kenya's birders have every reason to be proud of themselves. We would have 
notched up another four species (African Barred Owlet, Mombasa Woodpecker 
and Green-headed Oriole) had a checklist from Shimba not gone astray, despite 
frantic efforts to communicate at both ends. Somehow, Narina Trogon also got 
lost in the wash when the final list was being computerised, so the 'real' total 
should be 781! Computerising the National Birdmap forms that each team 
returned is going to take some time still, but later on we hope to give additional 
statistics on the results — which birds were most commonly seen, which were 
seen only by a particular team, and so on. The most interesting records will also 
be published in the next Kenya Birds. Out of many notable sightings, perhaps 
the most remarkable was Black-and-white Flycatcher by Maia Hemphill's team 



16 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

at Shimoni — this bird has not been recorded in coastal Kenya for more than 
half a century! 

Around the world, over 200,000 people in 91 countries took part in WBW 
'97. Over the course of October 5,935 bird species were seen in the 3rd 'NTT 
World Bird Count', a parallel event to World Birdwatch to which our list of 
birds also contributes. NTT Corporation donates 1,000 Yen for each species 
recorded, so the event worldwide raised the equivalent of around KSh 2.7 
million for bird conservation. 

Our excellent weekend total is still not quite as high as in 1993, probably for 
several reasons. An earlier date meant fewer Palaearctic migrants, and in fact the 
season was extremely poor for migrants generally. Many areas up-country were 
dry and birds were keeping a low profile, while by contrast torrential rain at the 
coast washed out one day completely. Also, we didn't receive nearly the same 
support from the tourist industry this year to help send people out and about to 
key places. The timing was unfortunate: most hotels and tour companies were 
still reeling from the violent events of August at the coast, which led to mass 
cancellations by overseas visitors. 

There was an array of (more or less) glittering prizes for the event on offer, 
from Swarowski Optik and others. Two buyers of raffle-tickets at the launch 
correctly guessed the official species total — Neil Davidson won a Swarowski 
wrist-watch and Kimbo Beakbane a framed photograph of a Lilac-breasted 
Roller by Gabriel Ramson. The award for the most bird species seen was shared 
between the teams of Colin Jackson, Peter Njoroge and Ogeto Mwebi, who 
spent a manic weekend in and around Busia and Trans-Nzoia (see below) and 
Bill Harvey's team, who were birding in the Ngong Rift and near Thika. Both 
teams saw over 200 species and were rewarded with Swarowski t-shirts and 
caps. The 'best school' prize (binoculars and books donated by the RSPB, and a 
Zimmerman et al. field guide from East African Ornithological Safaris) was 
awarded collectively to the team from Sokoke, Gede and Kakuyuni Secondary 
Schools (see below). The 'most adventurous team' prize (binoculars from 
Bushnell — the event sponsors — and the RSPB) was won hands-down by Titus 
Imboma and Bernard Amakobe, who travelled to Lokichoggio by public 
transport to clean up on the far north-western specials. We had also hoped to 
give a prize for the team raising the most sponsorship, but in the end this proved 
impossible to assess — the system of numbering sponsor forms didn't work too 
well. 

Despite the difficult timing, the event received financial or logistical support 
from quite a number of companies, and individual sponsors responded very 
generously. When all contributions are in, around 300,000/= KSh will have been 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 17 

raised for the special project of publishing an introductory bird guide for school 
environmental clubs. 

WBW '97 was overall a great success, thanks to the enthusiasm and 
commitment of the participants and the generosity of the sponsors. Not 
everything went smoothly, though. Organising an event like this is a major task 
involving lots of people, and there were undoubtedly some lapses in the co- 
ordination. Some participants received information late or failed to receive 
material they had asked for. Every time World Birdwatch takes place, the event 
is slightly different, and there seem to be new lessons to be learned. If you have 
suggestions for improvements, why not help to make the event even better next 
time and let the organisers know via the East Africa Natural History Society (P 

Box 44486, Nairobi). 

We received rather few detailed reports on the event, but below are some 
highlights from what participants wrote when they submitted their checklists — 
plus a few longer write-ups. We hope they capture some of the flavour of the 
weekend across the country. 

WBW '97: some highlights from your letters 

Lake Naivasha: "It was very sucessful and a great weekend, despite some 
difficulties, including lack of co-operation from some of the farm owners around 
that limited our coverage to a small area. Breeding was observed for weavers, 
sparrows, Superb Starling, Pearl-spotted Owlet and Augur Buzzard." — North 
Lake Bird Trackers (Peter Ruoro, Zachary Methu, Hellen Wanjiku, Priscilla 
Wandia), P O Box 260, Naivasha. 

Mweiga: "I watched birds in my home area, Mweiga, and identified 71 species. 
There were many other birds that we were not able to identify especially larks, 
cisticolas and other warblers. We used public transport, and hiked for long 
hours." — Patrick Karimi, P O Box 73, Mweiga 

Nyeri: "I have really enjoyed this year's birding. With most people unaware of 
the exercise, it was difficult to win their hearts to join me and so I did it all 
alone. I felt that maybe I recorded a low number. . . the area is rich with birds but 

1 am still taking time to learn them." — Stephen Wamiti, P O Box 75, Nyahururu 

Laikipia: "My group consisted of four... we were all amateurs so to speak but 
with interest in birding. Needless to state, we couldn't identify numerous small 
species especially the weavers and cisticolas as most were similar. The nightjars 



18 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

all seemed alike to us! We spotted and positively identified 104 birds and spent 
about 13 hrs in total. We covered at least 120 km and thoroughly enjoyed the 
birding." — Bell Okello, P O Box 555, Nanyuki 

Kericho: "It's my hope that most of the teams had a good time — it was the 
same with us. We encountered some problems with transport and optics. The hill 
known as Kimugu Forest was among the most interesting sites in Kericho with 
unusual species, including flycatchers, shrikes, wattle-eyes and greenbuls. We 
saw nests of African Blue Flycatcher and Hamerkop." — Peter Chirchir, P O 
Box 72, Naivasha 

Kinangop: "Birdwatch '97 was very interesting. However, some school clubs 
very new to this field found it less enjoyable as their patrons were caught by the 
teachers' national strike. I met with several student groups who trekked quite 
long distances all day without food or drink and thus were quite exhausted at the 
end of the event. Our own team though found the event excellent." — Francis 
Njuguna, P O Box 1346, Naivasha 

Nyahururu: "We had challenging but enjoyable birding. We stuck bird posters 
on our vehicle, gave sponsorship forms and talked to local people about the 
value of birds and the significance of the birdwatch event." — Cecilia Gichuki, 
Nathan Gichuki, Lucy Gakuo & Charles Waihenya, P O Box 40658, Nairobi. 

Thika and Mwea: "Our list adds up to 130 species. Unfortunately we didn't see 
Hinde's Babbler, Purple-crested Turaco, Trumpeter Hornbill or Grey-olive 
Greenbul, so we hope some of the other teams were more lucky. It was great fun 
anyway!" — Gunhild Frandsen, c/o T. Lehmberg, P O Box 30592, Nairobi. 

Nanyuki: "The most interesting species in these lists is a small flock of 
Ethiopian Swallows (adults with immatures) seen at Nanyuki Sewage Ponds. 
The 30 acre main counting area which was also covered in 1993 showed very 
few species on account of the very dry period before the count and rain and 
overcast the second day." — Tim &Lise Campbell, P O Box 14469, Nairobi. 

WCK Schools Team, Arabuko-Sokoke Forest 

On 4 October, three secondary schools from around Arabuko-Sokoke Forest 
joined forces and met with five members of the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Guides 
team to bird watch for the first time in the scrubland around Sokoke Secondary 
School. There were four Wildlife Club patrons and 15 students, coming from 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 19 

Gede, Sokoke and Kakuyuni. The patron from Sokoke, a keen birdwatcher, had 
spent some days previously doing a recce with one of the guides to locate 
favourabe spots, all within walking distance ofthe school. 

After early morning rain at 7:30 am, the students were able to start, having 
had instruction on how to use the binoculars and books (supplied by the 
Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Education Unit), and the rules of the birdwatch 
explained. Birds were pointed out by both students and guides and everyone had 
to see the bird and check it in the books before moving on. Despite this rather 
slow method, the studnts managed to see 47 species in four hours. 

The highlight was a sighting of a Great Sparrowhawk on its nest. The bird 
remained settled despite our proximity. All the students managed to get really 
clear sightings of it and the patron and students from Sokoke have agreed to 
monitor it over the next few months. Other birds that were exciting to see were 
the Pygmy Kingfisher, White-faced Whistling Duck, Palmnut Vulture, Black- 
chested Snake Eagle, Yellow-throated Longclaw and Violet-backed Starling. — 
Tansy Bliss, P O Box 383, Watamu 

World Birdwatch — ■ Mombasa style 

We had a really great time although the weather decided to be more like April 
than October... and then I managed to begin the first day (at 6 am) with a 
puncture, so started off wet and muddy after grovelling under the car to sort out 
the jack etc. (I must get some birders who can also change tyres — I am very 
badly organised in this direction.) Four die-hards turned out at 6 am on the 
Saturday and we 'did' Nguuni farm, breaking off to eat buns and drink coffee in 
order to dry out and warm up a bit. It was more like the Arctic than Mombasa. 
Anyway the birds seemed to enjoy it and we had some real treats. Could hardly 
believe my eyes when a Goliath Heron took off in front of us (have NEVER 
seen it on this patch before), we managed to trail him and watch him at leisure. 
The other three had never actually seen one so very excited. Then lo and behold 
one of my keen-eyed youngsters saw a brown flap round the edge of some trees 
which I recognised as an owl and on getting him in the glasses there was a 
Spotted Eagle Owl, being beaten up by the crows needless to say. Again Paul 
and Kevin were seeing one for the first time and in daylight to boot. He was very 
obliging and stayed around for some time for us to get a good look. Immediately 
afterward Paul spotted a huge Black Mamba in the acacia, so long we thought it 
was two at first. Such excitement. We already had approximately 58 species. 
Saturday pm saw the FFJ (Friends of Fort Jesus) birders joining us, and of 
course the pm didn't match the excitement of the morning but we added a few 
species. Sunday 6 am was dry but threatening for Kevin, Paul and myself. We 



20 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

went Husseini side of the same area and added all the waders to our list. The 
weather held until about nine when I had to dash away. Sunday afternoon was 
again pouring with rain and only the two old ladies, myself and Mrs Paltridge 
ventured out. We dragged Mr P. out for security and we all got soaked to the skin 
but added Wattled Starlings to our list. What a great week-end! — Marlene 
Reid, P O Box 80429, Mombasa 

Heat and dust on the Nguruman Escarpment 

Our five-strong team (led by Damaris Rotich, with Catherine Ngarachu, 
Narinder Heyer, Joanne Naitore and myself) left for Nguruman on Friday 3 
October, and had an early night at the ICIPE field station in preparation for the 
following weekend. On Saturday morning, already around the station, Damaris 
and Catherine saw an interesting thrush-type thing, of which they discussed for 
most of the day. In the end it was identified as a Spotted Morning Thrush, as 
much through its early hours and behaviour as by its markings. 

We departed soon after ingesting a piece of bread and a mildly warm cup of 
coffee (the birds were singing in full force by this time!) We went south on a 
track out of the field station, paralleling the river. In part our route was driven by 
a need to deposit two young fishermen at a good spot on the river, but it took 
forever to get there because we saw so many birds along the way. The first to 
figure out were the multitudinous doves: the African Mourning Dove, which 
Damaris says sounds like it is on the way to a relative's funeral; the Namaqua 
Dove, the Laughing Dove, and the beautiful Emerald-spotted Wood Dove. 

On the way we saw individual Kori Bustards, a few Secretary Birds, and an 
incredible concentration of Black-headed Herons, unexpectedly out in the 
middle of a dry grassland. I think Narinder counted 30 from one vantage point, 
each stalking out a territory full of something of interest to them 
(grasshoppers?). 

Catherine brought us all to a stop at one point, about to pass by a dry shrub 
just feet away from the car, with two White-throated Bee-eaters perched on its 
branches, each intensely surveying the grassland in different directions. 

Then, oddly out in the middle of a extremely arid patch of land, Narinder saw 
some 'white blobs'. We crept up as quietly as one could in a Land Rover, and 
realized that they were a large flock of Gull-billed Terns. We began to wonder if 
a lack of breakfast might be causing hallucinations, as after all this is really dry 
land, but Damaris confirmed that these terns, in any case, can be found in 
dryland, far away from water. 

We also saw a number of raptors, including the Brown Snake Eagle which is 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 21 

especially abundant in this area. Large flocks of Helmeted Guineafowl and a few 
Yellow-necked Spurfowl insisted on being counted by slowly crossing our track. 

Once we got to the river the White-headed Barbets were Chatting with the 
baboons in the figs (Ficus sycomorus). Grey-headed Kingfishers flashed over the 
water, and the Gull-billed Terns swooped by, showing that they do like water 
after all. In the Salvadora thickets further away from the river we saw the 
Emerald-spotted Wood Dove, a beautiful Little Bee-eater, a White-browed Scrub 
Robin, some hornbills, Masked Weavers and a Cardinal Woodpecker. 

More of our team arrived from Nairobi, and sighted Little Egrets, Yellow- 
billed Storks, Hadada Ibis, Lesser Flamingos, Great White Pelican, Grey Heron 
and Blacksmith Plover in Lake Magadi on the way over. 

Lunch back at the ICIPE field station proved to be very rich as we sighted a 
number of birds coming to a leaky hose just outside the canteen. Here we saw 
more weavers, Red-billed Quelea, Red-billed Firefinch, Crimson-rumped and 
Common Waxbill, Blue-capped Cordon-blue, a lovely Grey-headed Silverbill 
and a White-bellied Canary. 

After lunch, we again took a track south. We were trying to go directly to the 
Shompole woodland, but ended up taking a very roundabout route. This 
probably was to our advantage in the end because we ran into many interesting 
birds, including a female ostrich incubating 27 eggs! The woodland itself held a 
variety of raptors including Eastern Pale Chanting Goshawk, Martial Eagle and 
RuppeU's Griffon Vulture. Harlequin Quail preceded us on our track through tall 
grass. 

The next morning we headed toward the escarpment from the ICIPE field 
station. On the road up to the water source for the Magadi Soda factory we 
stopped several times in the woodland sites and saw a good selection of birds, 
including Rufous-crowned Roller and Red-faced Crombec. 

In Nguruman village we walked through a shady mango orchard and saw 
chickens but not too many other birds — although the Cardinal Woodpecker was 
here as well. On our way out of the village an African Hoopoe was pecking in 
the dirt near a house. We arrived at the base of the escarpment in the heat of 
midday, not a very good time to see birds in this dry country. While some of the 
team continued up a good way, a few of us sat under a tree and waited for birds 
to come to us. We were not disappointed when a Common Scimitar-bill flew in 
to flash his white wing bands at us and then left. A sunbird could be seen in the 
bushes but was never clear enough to identify — the only sunbird seen all 
weekend! 

Out for a final foray after lunch, we explored intensely in the area around the 
ICIPE field station, locating a rich number of birds. In a bush on the fence 
betweeen ICIPE and KETRI, we saw Tawny-flanked Prinia ^nd Rufous 



22 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

Chatterers. We went past KETRI down to the river where the rock outcropping 
makes a thin canyon and a small waterfall. This was evidently where the birds 
that we went to see on the escarpment were hiding, staying cool in the heat of 
the day. Here we saw again a number of weavers, and the Mountain Wagtail. An 
African Fish Eagle flew over. Kingfishers were numerous, including Pgymy, 
Pied and a Woodland. 

It was time to hurry back to Nairobi! Despite our rush, Catherine identified a 
Two-banded Courser crossing the road in front of us. Crossing Lake Magadi, we 
saw more waterbirds, including Chestnut-banded Plover ("with a red necklace", 
as Narinder described it), to wind up a very productive weekend's birding. — 
Barbara Gemmill, P O Box 30772, Nairobi. 

'Bird-till-you-drop' in western Kenya 

So... World BirdWatch '97 — and the choice of almost anywhere in Kenya to 
aim for in order to get the most species and, in particular, to cover as many 
species as possible that others won't see so as to bump up the national total 
(we're competing with those South Americans after all!) A safari in the new 
Dept. Land Rover and western Kenya looks like the place to go — a LOT of 
mega birds that no-one else will find as they're restricted to that area only — 
you KNOW it makes sense! ! In fact the safari was pretty totally mega over all. . . 
the sites we got to — ones I've only dreamed of visiting! Let me continue with 
the full account — are you sitting comfortably?! 

We set off on Friday am (3 October) about one and half hours late (what's 
new?!) and with a fully loaded vehicle. Passengers included our team of four 
(myself, Peter Njoroge ('Mr Important Bird Areas', Kenya), Ogeto Mwebi 
(osteologist but mega-keen birder really), and a Chinese lady, Xu, a reporter 
from a Chinese Government newspaper who wanted to cover the event and was 
very keen to visit the places we were planning to go to — an interesting 
combination and one that proved to add to the fun of the weekend!) and two 
other teams who we dropped at various places along the route to the Sio River in 
Busia, right on the border with Uganda, the site of the Blue Swallow roost and a 
host of other goodies. We'd been given sketch maps by Don Turner of where to 
find particular sites that were good for certain species that were difficult/ 
impossible to find elsewhere in Kenya... and headed straight for them without 
faffing around at other sites — time being the main limiting factor. 

As we pulled out of the Museum and down the hill past the Casino I noticed 
a raptor in the sky: YES! an Ayres's Hawk Eagle — one of Kenya's rarer eagles 
and a great start to the safari! We arrived at the Sio River with just 40 mins or so 
left of daylight to swot up a bit on the calls of some of the birds there — Yellow- 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 23 

throated Leaflove, Blue : spotted Wood Dove, Olive-bellied Sunbird. . . so that in 
the morning when the manic birding began we could clock them up faster (and I 
never thought I go twitching!). We camped that night in the compound of an old 
Mzee who lived right next to the river near the road and who was very happy to 
see Njoro again (he'd been here last year on a survey for Blue Swallows). Xu 
had brought a few tins of Chinese food (interesting. . . !) to complement the bread 
and milk we'd bought for supper (and breakfast, and lunch...) and which we ate 
by the light of two red candles she'd also brought. All very civilised. However, 
I'm not really sure Xu knew what she was in for — we were doing the trip on a 
strictly survival basis with no luxuries and full-time birding (naturally)... and 
she'd never even slept in a tent before (let alone eaten in a kiosk, sampled 
mandazis, nor even much used a knife and fork, etc.)! Nonetheless she survived 
fine and lived to tell the tale (literally...) and has actually done some birding of 
her own since then (how's that for effective propaganda?) 

Next morning, up at 5:30 am and listening for owls and nightjars. First bird 
was a calling Black-shouldered Nightjar Caprimulgus pectoralis nigriscapularis 
(a race of Fiery-necked Nightjar on the East African list), and then Copper 
Sunbirds and the rest of the avian population realised it was dawn and let loose 
in a glorious dawn chorous. We were desperately trying to identify all that we 
could (and struggling since we were all new to that side of Kenya). Even so we 
picked up the Leaflove soon, Winding Cisticola, Grey-capped Warbler, African 
Pygmy Kingfisher, White-crested Turaco, and as the morning progressed some 
other real specialities including Honey Buzzard, Compact Weaver, a possible 
Beaudouin's Snake Eagle, Yellow-fronted Tinkerbird, Red-shouldered Cuckoo- 
Shrike, Green Crombec and so on. A Grasshopper Buzzard glided past at c. 80 ft 
altitude giving classic views — fantastic, and the first record for western Kenya! 
We had a cassette recorder and microphone with us and recorded a few calls 
which we have since been able to identify back at base — the best being Red- 
chested Flufftail. We dipped badly on a few species including the Blue Swallow 
(whose roost site is becoming smaller and smaller as shambas encroach on it... 
though it was a bit late in the year for them too) and Locustfinch (a tiny wee 
thing that may be hard to track down unless you know exactly where to find it). 
By 10:30 am things were quietening down and we headed back to camp for 
some (by now sour!) milk and a delicious slice or two of bread with the remains 
of tinned chillied Chinese cabbage, adding African Blue Flycatcher and Yellow- 
fronted Tinkerbird to the list as we ate. 

From there, a mad dash to the border town of Busia and along a murram road 
that follows the border with Uganda north to Malaba, the next border crossing 
30-40 km away. By now it was stinking hot, but we still managed to see Black 
Bishop, Black-headed Gonolek, a Great Snipe (a rare Palaearctic migrant and 



24 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

my first for Kenya), and a Croaking Cisticola. Not a lot was moving by now and 
it was therefore a swift drive north watching for anything perched on the 
telegraph wires (Long-crested Eagle, Augur Buzzard etc.) to the agricultural 
town of Kitale. By now we were beginning to feel the effects of the pace a bit 
but still going. We circled the small village of Kiminini searching hard for 
Heuglin's Masked Weaver — only known from this part of the country — but in 
vain. A few weaver nests that could have been theirs, but no birds. A brief stop 
in Kitale for more bread and milk (what a great diet!) and then on to Sirikwa 
Guest House near the Cherangani Mountains and the legendary Kongelai 
Escarpment — an amazing number of species occur only there in Kenya. 
Sirikwa Guest House is a beautiful place, an old farm house set in a garden 
surrounded with old forest trees, lawns and bright flower beds and as a result, 
loads of birds. It belongs to Mrs Jane Barnley who operates it as a camp site and 
small guest house, with guests having delicious meals in the house with her. 
There's another legend there, Maurice Sinyereri, the incredibly knowledgeable 
resident bird guide. We arrived at around six in the evening in time for a cup of 
tea before heading out with Maurice to try and scoop up some nightjars on the 
roads. This was a dismal failure as the roads were full of people returning from 
market and it was also very dry, not encouraging birds to sit on the road as they 
do during the rains. No worries... back to a amazing English-style dinner 
(another first for Xu) and stories of life in pre-war Kitale when the Barnley s first 
moved there - very little cultivation at all (it's totally covered in maize fields 
now); instead, grass and Acacia trees and masses of elephant, lion, buffalo, 
giraffe etc. They generously put us up in their spacious tents, pitched on a stone 
base with a thatch roof and comfortable beds — very nice, and hard to get out of 
at 5:10 am the next day! 

Still, we were away by 5:30 am on Sunday heading 40 or so km along rough 
back roads to Kanyarkwat, another legendary site (there's lots of legends in this 
area!) right on the Ugandan border at the base of Mt Elgon. This is the only 
known site in Kenya for Foxy Cisticola and White-breasted Cuckoo-Shrike and 
is one of the best places for Boran Cisticola, Orange-winged Pytilia, Yellow- 
bellied Hyliota, Heuglin's Masked Weaver, Black-billed Barbet and Lesser Blue- 
eared Starling, just to mention a few. We arrived there just as the sun was rising, 
in totally beautiful golden light with incredible views looking north and west to 
some dramatic hills just inside Uganda, as well as Mt Elgon right there above us 
and yet again a fantastic dawn chorus. We had to report first to an army outpost 
which is there to try and keep cattle thieves from Uganda out of the area — 
cattle rustling remains a problem in that part of the world. The whole area 
immediately to the north is like no-mans land with no-one there at all because of 
the fear of raiding. As a result, the grass is as tall as a man, all golden yellow at 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 25 

the time and stunning in the bright sun with the wind blowing it into ripples of 
gold. And then the BIRDS... just incredible. Even as we were waiting for the 
army commander to come to talk to us (in a T-shirt and shorts and chewing a red 
tooth-brush) there were Heuglin's Masked Weavers building nests (so we got it 
after all!) and Lesser Blue-eared Starlings in the tree over the office! We saw a 
LOT of the specialities for the area, many of them lifers for us including the two 
we were really hoping to see, the Foxy Cisticola (a lovely little rufous cisticola 
and one of the easier ones to id) and the Orange-winged Pytilia, but we also had 
Chestnut-crowned Sparrow-Weaver, Black-billed Barbet, Brown-backed 
Woodpecker, and Brown Babblers, amongst others. We didn't clean up 
completely, dipping badly on the White-breasted Cuckoo-Shrike which I was 
really hoping to see and the Black Tit which should also occur there, as well as 
Green-backed Eremomela which at other times can be quite common there. 
However, it was just a joy to be out in such a beautiful place and seeing such 
awesome birds! From there (having had a scrumptious picnic lunch prepared by 
Mrs Barnley) we headed back to a swamp set further back from the Kongelai 
escarpment to pick up another local specialty, Hartlaub's Marsh Widowbird. 
Here we also found a Banded Snake Eagle sitting in a tree and peering down 
into the water below it as if it was trying to decide whether its reflection really 
WAS what it looked like. 

Lastly, in the three hours before sunset, we made a dash for the famous 
Kongelai escarpment to get Yellow-billed Shrike, Black-cheeked Waxbill, more 
White-crested Turacos, Double-toothed Barbet and the local race of Rattling 
Cisticola. We got them all, but missed the Stone Partidge that (every other day) 
normally call at dusk at the base of the scarp. It was a great way to finish the day 
though, sitting on a rock part way up the escarpment looking north into 'the hot 
country' with its flat plains broken by jagged hills, in the fading evening light 
with the wonderful sound of White-crested Turacos and a band of Brown 
Babblers going to roost. Just as it got dark, several African Scops Owls started 
calling and a Freckled Nightjar landed on a rock overhanging the road 20 m 
away, called briefly, and then sat there for a minute or so before flitting off to 
start foraging — beautiful. So it was back to the Barnleys' for another stunning 
English dinner of roast chicken and steamed pudding followed by more 
stimulating conversation and at last a welcome sleep — the end of World 
BirdWatch '97 (or at least the official bit — we did spend several hours the next 
morning trying to find Spotted Creeper, sadly without success!). 

The final outcome of the weekend for us was 219 species recorded on the two 
days of official watching (and about another 25 or so on the journey to and fro) 
which we were pretty chuffed with. We all had a load of new species and had a 
LOT of fun in the process too! — Colin Jackson, P O Box 383 ,Watamu. 



26 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

Head in the clouds in the Aberdares and Kinangop 

Only about half awake, in pre-dawn darkness on 4 October, Muchane Muchai 
and I left the farm in North Kinangop were we had spent the night. Our task — 
to track down the highland 'specials' of Kinangop and the Aberdares and make 
sure they made it on to the World Birdwatch list. Today we were heading for the 
mountains. As the light gathered, an early Rufous-naped Lark flew up from the 
road in surprise and birds began to move and call. Soon Muchai was busy 
scribbling down names as we bumped and lurched along the dusty track: 
Hunter's Cisticola bubbling in duet, a distant honking of Hadada Ibis, the harsh 
croaks of Cape Rooks. Daylight also revealed an unpromising spectacle in the 
distance — the Aberdares shrouded from top to bottom in dense, grey rain 
clouds. 

We had cleverly taken a short-cut to avoid a stretch of the spine-jarring main 
road to Ndunyu Njeru, which is particularly agonising in an old Hilux pick-up. It 
seemed like a good idea, and indeed would have been if I hadn't managed to 
take a wrong turn and driven 20 km in the wrong direction (down an even more 
spine-jarring stretch of track) before realising that Something Wasn't Quite 
Right. So it was bump-bump-f/zwrap-bump all the way back and round, with the 
clock ticking away, no birds in sight and no sign of the clouds dispersing either. 
Eventually regaining the main road, we stopped just after Murungaru town in a 
swampy valley and added Sharpe's Longclaw, Grassland Pipit and Red-capped 
Lark. No less than six different species of hirundines appeared in an old gravel 
quarry just beyond and our spirits started to pick up along with the list. 

More bump-bump-bump, with pauses to follow up on interesting blobs in the 
distance, to Ndunyu Njeru (at which stage the track to the Aberdares gives up 
the pretence of being a proper road entirely). We stopped in a damp depressing 
drizzle at the edge of the forest reserve, in open land with a few patches of 
juniper, to look and listen. Despite the weather, here were Golden-winged and 
Malachite Sunbirds, Grey and Chestnut-throated Apalis, and Mountain Yellow 
Warbler. Then it was a slow climb up the slope, pausing here and there in the 
enveloping cloud to try and pick up a movement or a call. The western scarp of 
the Aberdares is much steeper than the eastern, so the road only passes through a 
short stretch of forest, much of which is in fact bamboo — not rich in birds even 
in the best of weather. Nonetheless, the list was piling up, with Eastern Double- 
collared Sunbird and Brown Woodland Warbler singing away, flocks of Yellow- 
bellied Waxbills flitting along the verges and coveys of Jackson's Francolin (one 
of our special target species) scurrying off into the mist. 

A pleasant surprise awaited at the top, as the cloud rolled away and glittering 
sunbirds flitted about sipping from the Kniphofia flowers. We added Tacazze 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 27 

Sunbird to the list and presented the KWS officer at the gate with some World 
Birdwatch stickers. To our dismay, he looked rather bemused and asserted that 
he knew nothing about the event. With great efficiency, though, he placed a 
quick radio call to park headquarters, established our bona fides, and in no time 
we were waved through. 

Now we were up on the moorland proper. Mountain Chats perched 
confidingly by the road, flashing their white tail feathers, and a Green Sandpiper 
and a pair of African Black Ducks bobbed about on a weed-covered stream. Our 
target bird here was Aberdare Cisticola and, suddenly, there they were! — only a 
few kilometres into the park, a little group in a patch of dry tussock grass at the 
edge of the Erica scrub. We feasted our eyes and ears and finally drove on, 
feeling that the day could only be downhill from here. A long circuit around the 
moorland indeed yielded very little new. Moorland Francolins proved elusive 
and all the buzzards were ordinary Augurs, rather than the Mountain we were 
hoping for. Taking a late lunch at the Queen's Cave waterfall we watched 
Slender-billed Chestnut-winged Starlings having an afternoon splash — but no 
sign, alas, of the African Green Ibis that are supposed to nest here once in a 
while. A last attempt on Mountain Buzzard at the Gura and Karura Falls yielded 
dividends, as a splendid specimen floated across above usflcalling loudly. But 
the clouds were closing in again and it was time to go. 

Sunday morning back on the farm was more relaxed — taking a 'late' 
breakfast, at around 6:00, we chalked up a dozen or so new calls while sipping 
our tea, including Dusky Turtle Dove and Yellow-crowned Canary. Dominic 
Kaburu and a friend from Ruteere School Wildlife Club joined us in exploring 
the woodland at the escarpment edge, which yielded Red-throated Wryneck, 
Brown Parisoma, Black-throated Wattle-eye and Northern Double-collared 
Sunbird, an Ayres's Eagle and a Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk overhead. Then 
it was time to knuckle down to the real work of the day — the search for 
Jackson's Widowbird and Wing-snapping Cisticola. We didn't have much hope 
for the widowbird, given the pathetically dry conditions and the fact that no-one 
had seen them around recently. But the cisticola surely would turn up — or 
would it? After hours and hours and hours of tramping across desiccated pasture, 
with scarcely a blade of grass in sight, we weren't so sure. Finally, as we limped 
along one flank of Kimani Mbae dam, a tiny, almost tail-less bird flew up from a 
little clump of tussock grasses and landed about 40 m away. The cisticola — at 
last! 

All the day, Kinangop seemed to be alive with birdwatchers. As well as 
groups from the 'Friends of Kinangop Plateau', we encountered several teams of 
students with their notebooks and pencils. The birds at the dam must have 
wondered what on earth was going on, as one birding group replaced another in 



28 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



quick succession. It was wonderful to see so many people spending a day out 
watching birds and feeling part of the event. 

The swampy area at the dam outlet produced African Snipe, a fine group of 
Levaillant's Cisticola and a big flock of Long-tailed Widowbirds, while Black- 
winged Plovers flew about with high-pitched cries nearby. This seemed a good 
point to retire, and we did so, dusty and footsore, for a well-earned cup of tea. 
As the shadows thickened over the Rift Valley came the liquid, haunting call of a 
Montane Nightjar — and the last species for our World Birdwatch list. — Leon 
Bennun, P O Box 40658, Nairobi. 




Water Thick-knee — Edwin Selempo 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 29 

i 

Birding in the Samburu, Buffalo Springs & 
Shaba National Reserves 

Dave Richards 
P O Box 24545, Nairobi 

For years these three Reserves, on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River in 
northern Kenya, have attracted visitors to view the wildlife, particularly the 
endangered Grevy's Zebra, elegant Gerenuk, beautiful Reticulated Giraffe, herds 
of Beisa Oryx and the peaceful herds of Elephant bathing in the Ewaso Nyiro 
River. And not forgetting the big cats — Lion, Leopard and Cheetah — which 
can all be seen here on a visit of a few short days. The altitude of the. Reserves 
ranges from 850 m -1,250 m and the climate is hot and dry, with an annual 
rainfall averaging around 350 mm. The rains, which in some years can be very 
heavy, making driving difficult, fall mainly during April and November. The 
dominant habitat consists mainly of thorny scrubland, with areas of Acacia 
tortilis, but along the Ewaso. Nyiro River there is an ever- shrinking band of 
riverine vegetation consisting of Acacia elatior, Tana River Poplar Populus 
ilicifolia and the distinctive Doum Palm — the only palm tree in the world with 
a divided trunk. Apart from the river, the Reserves are generally well-watered, 
having a number of small permanent streams and waterholes and a few swamps, 
all of which attract wildlife, including birds, particularly when the Ewaso Nyiro 
dries up. The birdlife in this wonderful area is spectacular with such specialities 
as Pygmy Falcon, Somali Bee-eater, Golden-breasted Starling, Vulturine 
Guineafowl, Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse, Somali Courser (split recently from 
Cream-coloured Courser) and Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow-Weaver all easily 
seen. Other notable birds occurring here are White-headed Mousebird, Pygmy 
Batis, Yellow-vented Eremomela, Bare-eyed Thrush, Pink-breasted and Fawn- 
coloured Larks, Golden Pipit and Somali Golden-breasted Bunting. Something 
like 400-plus species have been recorded. 

The Samburu National Reserve, at 165 km 2 the smallest of the three Reserves, 
lies to the north of the Ewaso Nyiro River and west of the Isiolo-Marsabit road. 
The land rises gently from the river to the base of several steep, rocky hills, on 
one of which a pair of Verreaux's Eagles regularly nest. The scrubland below the 
hills is a good place to find Somali Bee-eater and Yellow-billed Hornbill, 
Spotted Thick-knee and Rosy-patched Bush-Shrike, whilst upstream from 
Samburu Lodge Bristle-crowned and Golden-breasted Starlings can often be 
found feeding on the fruits of the Henna bush Lawsonia inernis. Sitting in any of 



30 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



the taller trees are likely to be Eastern Pale-chanting Goshawk, the tiny Pygmy 
Falcon, or even a Martial Eagle. Martials often prey on Vulturine Guineafowl, 
and I once came across one mantling over an adult Kori Bustard in this area. A 
good place to find Vulturine Guineafowl is just a few kilometres downstream 
from Samburu Lodge where they seem to have lost all fear of vehicles and can 
be watched and photographed quite easily. This area is also a good spot to see 
the tiny Crested Francolin and the very common Yellow-necked Spurfowl. The 
grounds of Samburu Lodge are good for birds such as Rufous Chatterers and 
Spotted Morning Thrush, and more unusual species like Narina Trogon and 
Hartlaub's Turaco have been recorded there in the past. If visiting the Lodge 




Somali Bee-eater — Edwin Selempo 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 31 

during' the day, take a look over the river to the Leopard bait, where it is not 
unusual to see a Palm-nut Vulture feeding on any leftover meat. Along the river 
banks look for Water Thick-knee, Spur-winged and Three-banded Plovers, and 
the odd migrant wader — Greenshank, Common Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper. 
The lodge is also a good spot for weavers, with both Black-headed and Golden 
Palm Weavers nesting in the trees here during the rains. 

The Buffalo-Springs National Reserve (131 km 2 ) lies due south of Samburu 
National Reserve and consists mainly of a gently rolling plain with areas of 
Acacia tortilis. This reserve is well watered by the Isiolo and Ngare Mara rivers, 
the Buffalo Springs themselves and, of course, the Ewaso Nyiro River. Here, 
look out for Black-capped Social Weavers, Donaldson-Smith's Sparrow- Weaver 
and the ever present White-browed Sparrow- Weaver, without forgetting the 
showy White-headed Buffalo- Weavers whose untidy stick nests are often taken 
over by Pygmy Falcons. The drier areas of this reserve are the places to look for 
Pink-breasted and Fawn-coloured Larks. The Pink-breasted can usually be found 
singing from the tops of bushes or small trees whilst the Fawn-coloured are 
mostly found on the ground. In the riverine woodland look for Verreaux's Eagle 
Owls which roost during the day high in the larger trees. In contrast, the tiny 
Pearl-spotted Owlet is usually found lower down in the thicker bush, where it is 
often mobbed by Grey-headed Sparrows and Slate-coloured Boubous. Any 
imitation of the owlet's call will usually bring this small owl into view and often 
a host of other birds which come to mob the 'bird' making the call. This area is 
also good for Grey-headed Kingfisher, Lilac-breasted and Rufous-crowned 
Rollers, and White-bellied Go-away-Bird. 

Along the open banks of the river you will find White-throated and Little Bee- 
eaters — the White-throated have occasionally nested here too. The Springs area 
is a good place to focus on with African Darter and Long-tailed Cormorant often 
seen. Chestnut-bellied and Black-faced Sandgrouse come to the water around 
8:30 to 9:00 most mornings whilst the rarer Lichtenstein's, in contrast, arrive in 
the late afternoon. The best place to find the Somali Courser is the open 
grassland area near the Springs where there are many vehicle tracks, often 
making it easy to drive up quite close to them. If the coursers are not in this area 
during your visit, drive away from the springs and check out the large area of 
open, dry grassland to the south. However, there are fewer tracks here and so 
finding the birds can be very difficult. Another speciality in this area is the Red- 
necked Falcon, which can sometimes be seen sitting on one of the many Doum 
Palms, with which the species is often associated. 



32 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



One of my favourite 
areas is along the 
Ngare Mara River, 
with its reedbeds and 
many marshy pools. 
Here one can find 
Green-backed He- 
rons, Black-crowned 
Night Herons, White- 
browed Coucal, Mal- 
achite Kingfisher and 
Black Crake, plus (at 
the right time of the 
year) many migrant 
waders. Most years 
there is at least one 
migrant Great Snipe 
present. In 1997 
thousands of Chest- 
nut Weavers and 
Chestnut Sparrows 
nested along the river 
in this same area. All 
the activity attracted 
the attention of sev- 
eral Gabar Goshawks 
which spent their 
time raiding the 
nests, causing panic 
among the nesting 
birds. 



-/jo/? <=*> 

Shaba National 

Reserve (239 km 2 ) is 
south of the Ewaso 
Nyiro River but on the eastern side of the Isiolo-Marsabit road. It is very, 
different from the other two reserves, as here the Ewaso Nyiro flows through 
narrow gorges and the generally flat landscape is dominated by the brooding 
presences of Mt Bodech and Shaba Hill. There are many springs and swamps 
but most of them contain bitter-tasting water. Although most of the birds already 




Spotted Thick-knee — Edwin Selempo 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



33 




34 ' Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

mentioned occur here, they do not appear to be as common or as plentiful as in 
the other Reserves. Specialities occurring here are Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse 
(most frequently seen during the rains at pools of rain water on the roads), Fan- 
tailed Raven, Lanner Falcon, Crested Bustard and occasionally African 
Swallow-tailed Kites. At the Shaba Sarova Lodge, you can get about the best 
views possible of Bristle-crowned Starlings which fearlessly come to the bird 
table. Orange-bellied Parrots are often feeding in the trees by the lodge along the 
river bank — which also hold Eurasian Golden Orioles during the migration. At 
this time too, it is possible to see Olivaceous Warblers in the Acacia scrub 
around the lodge, and after a heavy storm, if there has been an emergence of 
termites, keep an eye out for migrant falcons (Eurasian Hobbies are the most 
likely, but Sooty Falcons are not out of the question). Shaba is the most 
accessible site for the rare and enigmatic Williams's Lark (see elsewhere in this 
issue). 

Where to stay 

Samburu N.R. has one lodge, Samburu Lodge, and two permanent tented 
Camps, Samburu Intrepids Club and Larsen's. There also is a public camp site 
and a number of private camp sites. 

Buffalo Springs N.R. has two lodges: the Samburu Serena, situated in the far 
west of the Reserve on the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro, and Buffalo Springs 
Lodge, which is ideally situated in the centre of the Reserve by a permanent 
spring. 

Shaba N.R. has just one lodge, the Shaba Sarova Lodge, built among a 
number of permanent natural springs along the banks of the Ewaso Nyiro River. 

Getting there 

Visiting these reserves really requires your own transport. The road from 
Nairobi to Isiolo is generally good, but the road from Isiolo to the Reserve 
entrance gates is badly corrugated. The roads and tracks in the Reserves are 
mostly reasonable, and a few have even been graded recently. Four-wheel drive 
is not really necessary (except in the rains), but a vehicle with good ground 
clearance is advisable. Fuel is available at Samburu Lodge though it is cheaper 
in Isiolo. 

A last note 

There are many good birding spots en route to these Reserves which may tempt 
you to stop — and are often well worth pausing for. One that is certainly worth a 
stop is along the road between Timau and Isiolo. During October and November, 
migrant Pallid and Montagu's Harriers can often be seen flying low over the 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 35 

wheat fields, while Steppe and Tawny Eagles perch on the fence posts on the 
look out for rodents. Recently ploughed fields or pasture often have 
impressively large flocks of White Storks or Abdim's Storks feeding on them. 
This area is also good for Dusky Turtle Doves, which often crowd the telephone 
wires along the roadside. 




Bristle-crowned Starling — Edwin Selempo 



36 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

The birds of prey of Ololokwi 

Simon Thomsett 
PO Box 42818, Nairobi 

The mountain of Ololokwi, or Ol Donyo Sabache, is commonly seen on 
calendars, brochures, and paintings. It provides a magnificent back drop to 
Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba National Reserves. Ololokwi refers more 
to the region than the mountain, which is locally called Sabache. Despite being 
so far north, it is (to most people's surprise) almost smack in the middle of 
Kenya. 

Rising to some 1,880 m, Sabache is an isolated basalt mountain lying south 
of an almost continuous range of mountains that stretches into Ethiopia. It 
receives sufficient rainfall on its summit to support a cedar, podocarpus and 
cycad forest. It is accessible only up one side, because three-quarters of its 
circumference is sheer cliff wall. 

For those interested in raptors Ololokwi is alluring. It is difficult to imagine 
another mountain more ideal for birds of prey, in particular the cliff dwellers. It 
is strategically well placed for migrant raptors following the rift valley from the 
north, and it is their last stop before the challenging flight across the hot plains. 
This 'bottleneck' effect need not apply only to the migrants, but also to our 
resident raptors undertaking local movements. 

Since 1981 I have climbed it 25 times and wandered its foothills and lesser 
mountains for a combined period of months. In 1991 the Peregrine Fund started 
a conservation and research programme in Kenya in association with the 
National Museums' Ornithology Department. I gratefully received sorely 
needed funding and was given the pleasant task of identifying an important bird 
of prey region. I spent not a cent in finding it, because Ol Donyo Sabache could 
not be beaten. 

To the raptor the most obvious feature of this area is the numerous cliffs. 
Sabache itself has a cliff wall 14 km in circumference and in places nearly 500 
m high. This cliff is covered with whitewash from probably thousands of years 
of Ruppell's Griffon Vulture occupation. This feature can be seen from 80 km 
away on the slopes of Mt Kenya with the unaided eye. Within 10 km it is 
surrounded by other mountains with yet more cliff faces. All these cliffs are 
home to falcons, eagles and vultures. 

The top" plateau of Sabache covers some 9 km 2 of which 5 km 2 is forested. 
The diversity of the area is dramatic. I once witnessed a Peregrine Falcon rocket 
out of thick cold moist jungle in pursuit of a forest dwelling African Green 
Pigeon. The pigeon banked and escaped, and the falcon pulled up on the edge of 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 37 

the precipitous cliff and then stooped like a meteor down the cliff face until her 
speed and distance almost baffled my eyes. She broke through a group of doves 
on the arid scrub hundreds of metres below. In one hunting flight lasting less 
than 30 seconds she had covered vastly different habitats. This is the principal 
reason why Sabache has so many species of raptors. 

I have recorded on the mountain and on its foothills 62 species of diurnal 
birds of prey and nine species of owls. Not bad when you consider Kenya has in 
total 75 diurnal birds of prey and 16 owls. Ololokwi has a greater raptor species 
diversity than the entire USA! 

In the forest and glades on top of Sabache one can see forest dwelling 
accipiters and eagles. There is an abundance of accipiters, some of which are 
notoriously difficult to tell apart. Of special interest are the Ovampo 
Sparrowhawk and Shikra, and the migrant Levant and European Sparrowhawk. 
My most intriguing find was a good long view of an adult European Goshawk 
Accipiter gentilis flying high above skirting the forest fringes. As this is a first 
record for Kenya, and the entire region I really needed to take photographs to 
convince anyone to believe me. 

The large falcons are exceptionally diverse. The African Peregrine Falcon is 
densely packed with six pairs in less than 14 km. The Barbary Falcon is seen 
sufficiently frequently and throughout the year to raise suspicions that it is a 
resident. The pint-sized Taita Falcon makes its presence all too clear to the local 
Peregrines by its bold and aggressive nature. Although not much larger than a 
kestrel, this powerfully built falcon has been seen to chase Peregrines and 
Lanners away from what I presumed was its nest site. Unfortunately the pair of 
Taitas took up residence in a deep pot-hole under an over-hang. Despite 
lowering myself down a rope I could not see into this hole and had to give up 
the climb. 

Migrant falcons are well represented, especially during the rains. The large 
and pale Saker Falcon has been seen on the summit and on the plains below. The 
rare Eurasian/Russian calidus Peregrine sub-species has also been seen, on one 
occasion with its smaller African relative in hot pursuit. When the termite alates 
take wing the skies are full of the smaller falcon migrants. A special treat was to 
observe in a mixed flock of Lesser Kestrels and Eastern Red-footed Falcons 
about half a dozen Fox Kestrels. These odd kestrels breed in a broad belt 
stretching from West Africa to Sudan, and had little reason to be this far south 
with foreign falcons. 

During this time Steppe Buzzards and Honey Buzzards are especially 
common. In the 'autumn' passage steady streams of mixed flocks fly below the 
summit heading southward, frequently accompanied by Steppe Eagles. 



38 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

The eagle population is impressive. The African Hawk Eagle and Ayres's 
Hawk Eagle used to be familiar inhabitants of the summit's cool forests. The 
magnificent African Crowned Eagle used to breed in a huge nest in a dominant 
cedar. But since 1984 the African Crowned Eagles have vanished, probably 
because of the lethal drought of that year and the subsequent years of misuse and 
fires on Sabache. Still present are the Verreaux's Eagles. It is possible to see as 
many as three separate pairs at one time, all patrolling their territories and 
putting on perfect acrobatic shows. In the drainage lines below, Martial Eagles, 
Tawny Eagles and Bateleurs nest. All visit the summit and fly by at, or below, 
one's level. To witness an eagle only 50 m away looking down hundreds of 
metres with so impressive a back drop is a unique insight into their domain. 

Perhaps the least raved-about raptor group comes into its own element here 
and leaves one wondering why it seldom attracts fanatical admirers. The 
Riippell's Griffon Vulture is described in Lewis & Pomeroy's Bird Atlas of 
Kenya as occurring on Ololokwi in thousands. From the bottom looking up one 
can just make out tiny birds aloft in impressive numbers. After the three hour 
hot, hearty climb you are at face level with unsurpassed fliers. They cruise by 
tilting their heads to view their insignificant guest. There is a huge flat boulder 
which sticks out over the main cliff like a swimming pool spring board. 
Gingerly sliding your bottom out to the edge, you can dangle your feet over 
hundreds of metres of strangely inviting abyes. Here you can view vultures 
soaring above, level, behind and below. You look out upon (at first sight) miles 
and miles of unspoiled Africa. Groups of vultures will play 'follow my leader' 
and come at you borne aloft on the hot rising wind to shoot out one after another 
at your very feet. Individuals will tucj: in their wings and reach impressive 
speeds, in the process creating a loud rushing sound. If there are no eagles or 
falcons to watch, the vultures are no less awe inspiring. But there are not 
thousands now, and I doubt there ever were. Instead there are between 30 and 
120 Riippell's. Egyptian Vultures are also plentiful, with three pairs nearly 
always in view from the main cliff. The Lammergeyer was present in 1981, and 
it was exceptionally white, but I had not seen it before nor has it appeared since. 
However, it may well have been a wanderer. 

In the valley forest where I camp is a huge Mackinder's Eagle Owl. I hear 
him at night as I lie awake listening to the leopards grunting, or a friendly 
porcupine rummaging through my back pack. He isn't very nice, for he eats an 
inordinate number of raptors. This huge owl devoured two Steppe Buzzards and 
a small accipiter, and once waited patiently for an African Harrier Hawk to rear 
its single young before consuming it. Mackinder's Eagle Owls are not supposed 
to occur in the area. 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 39 







Taita Falcon — Simon Thomsett 

Even more interesting is the sighting of a tall thin owl with very long ears, 
perched on a boulder above windswept tussock grass. He was not the Spotted 
Eagle Owl which is common on the hills beneath and I am prepared to swear 
that he was an African Long-eared Owl. But as this species occurs only in the 
sub-alpine areas of the Rwenzoris and Mt Kenya and is very rare, I would have 
to have better evidence than this one sighting. 

There is no doubt that Sabache alone supports an extraordinary number of 
raptors. Its geographical position and varied habitats account for this. The hot 
plains below have many drainage lines with tall trees suitable for breeding birds 
of prey. But the region is by no means pristine and it has lost some of its raptors, 
most notably the African Crowned Eagle. In 1984 Ololokwi suffered a drought. 
The increased number of cattle and goats, artificially augmented by new bore 
holes, ate most of the available fodder on the plains, and they were then taken to 
the top of the mountain. Deliberately-lit fires ravaged the hill sides and summit 
in the mistaken belief that this would bring rain, eradicate ticks and improve 
grazing. The cedar trees on the forest fringes died. The springs dried up, killing 



40 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

the entire Cape Buffalo herd, and most of the Bushbuck, Suni, and even the 
Lesser and Greater Kudu. Rhino also died, but fortunately some were rescued 
and taken away. Cattle died in thousands and the local people were 
impoverished. Since then there has been a similar pattern repeated each year, 
with little grazing forcing cattle to the top of the mountain, and fires. Elders 
lament the irresponsibility of the young moran who light the fires. Since 1995 
the valley that holds the Mackinder's Eagle Owl, African Harrier Hawk and 
former African Crowned Eagle's site has been so repeatedly torched that 
undergrowth has been removed and it is unlikely that the trees will survive. 

The drying up of the mountain is indicated by the distribution of Ololokwi's 
near-endemic plant, the small African Violet-like Streptocarpus exsertus. 
Previously described as occurring half-way up the mountain, it is today confined 
to its summit. 

Perhaps the most important feature of this otherwise sad forest is the density 
and size of the cycads, Encephalartos tegulaneus. Fortunately fire-resistant, 
these trees can reach a total height of 17 m and a girth of 4 m. In places these 
primitive trees dominate and may achieve a density greater than that found 
anywhere else. The cones and female seed pods are eaten by the young moran. 
To get at them, the palm-like fronds are cut away and the tree may die as a 
result. 

Despite 01 Donyo Sabache's apparent inaccessibility and sanctuary its forest 
and resources have been over-utilized within the last decade. There are plans to 
develop the region by paving the road and expanding the ranching. In so fragile 
a habitat, already suffering from greatly diminished capacity to hold animals, it 
is likely that the region's natural fauna and flora will continue to decline. It is 
unfortunate that these natural resources are not recognised as essential, valuable 
assets that need to be nurtured for perpetuity. 

In modern Kenya conservation of natural resources is an economic and 
political issue. Few options are available to justify the conservation of wildlife 
and natural fauna unless it creates employment. Even fewer options are available 
to us to make this money, apart from tourism. The potentially negative affects of 
tourism are recognised today and this gave rise to the term 'eco-tourism\ which 
indicates culturally and environmentally sensitive visitors. Ololokwi and Ol 
Donyo Sabache may lose its appeal to most of us if it becomes a tourist 
destination. I do not believe conventional tourism alone, as we know it today, 
will so benefit the local communities as to make significant contributions to the 
conservation of wildlife and to the marked improvement of local living 
standards. What is clear is that wildlife and raptors are losing ground. We need 
to do something very different from what we do today in order to keep our 
wildlife outside protected areas. 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 41 

Records 

compiled by Colin Jackson 
PO Box 383, Watamu 

This section exists for the publication of interesting observations and for updates to A Bird 
Atlas of Kenya (Lewis & Pomeroy, 1989). All contributions are welcomed. If you are sending 
in records for Kenya Birds, please consider the following guidelines. For (non-breeding) 
records of Afrotropical, oceanic and Palaearctic birds, please send in any observations with 
notes that you think are of interest (e.g. earliest/latest dates for Palaearctic and intra-African 
migrants, unusual records for your area, or any unusually large or impressive movements of 
birds). We are keen to publish information of this kind. Records with information other than 
simply a list of birds are particularly interesting and valuable, e.g. "male singing from bush", 
or "4 seen in flock of Barn Swallows...", or "single adult and 2 immatures roosting with other 
terns" etc. The Editors will select records for publication according to the space available. All 
records are useful for supplementing the computerised database of the Bird Atlas held in the 
Dept. of Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya, through which our knowledge of bird 
distribution and seasonality in Kenya will be improved. 

For breeding records, those for confirmed breeding are useful for ALL species, even the 
most common ones; records of probable breeding (nest-building, courtship etc.) are only 
needed for rare species or ones where there are few breeding records. For definitions and 
codes of 'confirmed' and 'probable' breeding, see Kenya Birds 5(2), p. 82. Interesting records 
will be published here and the others stored by the EANHS for analysis of breeding seasons, 
success rates, habitat requirements etc. You are strongly urged to fill in a Nest Record Card at 
the same time. Much more detail can be recorded on a card, and if your record can be added 
to the card collection then it is of permanent value. Cards can be obtained free of Charge from 
the EANHS Nest Record Scheme Organiser (see back page). A report listing records 
submitted to. the scheme is published alongside the Annual Bird Report by the Bird 
Committee in Scopus. 

For all records, including breeding records, please be as detailed as possible about dates 
and locations. If you have sightings from places not easily found on the map, please take the 
trouble to give the latitude and longitude of the site to as much precision as you can 
(preferably the nearest second of arc or better). This will allow us to use these as we update A 
Bird Atlas of Kenya. 

Supporting details and descriptions are always welcome for unusual records and will 
improve the chances of publication (see Kenya Birds 4(2), p. 84 for suggestions on how to 
submit a record). Records of certain species are requested in particular for inclusion in this 
report. These species are indicated in the new Check-list of the Birds of Kenya (EANHS 1996, 
available for KSh 100/= from the EANHS office) and records should be sent to the Records 
Officer at the Department of Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya. For particularly 
unusual sightings, supporting details (i.e. field notes, photographs etc.) will be needed for 
scrutiny by the Rarities Committee of the EANHS for the record to be accepted. 



42 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

Key to records 

For new atlas records, the species number as given in the atlas is placed in brackets after the 
name: e.g. Whinchat (A# 653). The new records themselves are indicated in square brackets. 
Codes are: pres, present (first record); post pres, present (first post- 1970 record); prob, 
probable breeding; conf, confirmed breeding; post conf, confirmed breeding (first since 
1970); e.g. [conf 25B] indicates that the species is confirmed as breeding (and is therefore 
also present) in square 25B. All records are from 1997 unless otherwise indicated. Where 
scientific names are not stated (here and elsewhere in Kenya Birds) the English names follow 
the Check-list of the Birds of Kenya (3rd edition), EANHS, Nairobi 1996. 

Overview 

1997 will no doubt be remembered for the extremes in climate that it brought. 
The year started with the drought which lasted until April and was followed, in 
many areas, by very heavy rains creating a large number of seasonal wetlands 
that stayed for some time — and were then replenished when el nino struck even 
later in the year. The seasonal wetlands so created provided ideal foraging and 
breeding habitat for a number of infrequently-seen intra-African migrants as 
well as local birds. As a result, and with the tireless searching by certain self- 
confessed 'crake-fanatics', there were a good number of records of flufftails (of 
most note, Streaky-breasted Flufftail), migrant crakes and many Lesser Moorhen 
(found on every patch of seasonal flooding around Thika at least) including 
adults with young. Endashant Swamp, a seasonal swamp in the Rift Valley 
behind the Ngong Hills (near the Rifle Range) filled up really nicely producing 
areas of flooded grassland and swamp — perfect habitats for water birds and 
particularly crakes. It was visited by a several Nairobi-based birders (and 
ringers) and turned up Striped Crake, African Crake, Lesser Moorhen, Dwarf 
Bittern, Maccoa Duck (did they breed there?) and several breeding birds 
including Black-necked Grebes and African Spoonbills. It was also in some 
bushed grassland close to the swamp that at least two Bush Pipits were seen, 
another scarce (EANHS category 'B') species, though it is known to occur in 
this area from time to time. The second Striped Crake record — caught in a 
banda at Koobi Fora not all that far from the Sudanese border in June — is a 
particularly interesting record. It raises the question of where this bird was on its 
way to or from, it being a) nearly 600 km further north than any other previous 
record in Kenya and b) not exactly in a nice swampy wetland. Was it just a 
vagrant that was lost, or could it be that there is a small population that spend 
the non-breeding season in the wetlands to the north of Lake Turkana in 
southern Sudan...? 

Also during the rains, a pair of White-backed Night Herons was found at the 
Hippo Pools in Nairobi National Park, apparently attempting to breed though the 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 43 

nest was washed away by some very high floods. A further attempt also failed, 
due possibly to disturbance by people going too close too often. This heron, 
often considered as very rare and localised, is certainly scarce and, being 
nocturnal as well as very shy and secretive, is a very hard species to find. 
Another species which these days has become rare is our local race of the Great 
Crested Grebe, the reduction in numbers thought to be largely due to the use of 
gill-nets for fishing on the lakes where the grebe used to occur. The record of 
nine birds on Lake Oloidien was therefore very unusual and raises the question 
of these birds come from, as they are seen very infrequently on Lake Naivasha. 

Some interesting and noteworthy observations were made in Meru National 
Park, in particular the Black-and-white Flycatcher found breeding (the first 
breeding record in Kenya for 30 years) and the Chestnut-fronted Helmet Shrikes 
seen along the western edge of the Park, the race which occurs there being 
particularly scarce and localised these days. Remarkably, it appears that the nest 
and eggs of Hartlaub's Bustard have never been described. A nest found and 
monitored on the Athi-Kapiti plains is thus of great interest. A full description is 
to be published in Scopus. 

Sabaki River Mouth continued to live up to its legendary status, turning up 
Sandwich Tern and two species rare at the coast, Pied Avocet and Ruff. 
Conversely, inland there were records of species normally only found at the 
coast — Grey Plover, Lesser Sand Plover, and Red-necked Phalarope (which 
normally winters miles out at sea, though this time was seen inland but away 
from the Rift Valley lakes where it has turned up a few times in the past). Other 
rare migrants reported have been the Eurasian Wryneck at Baringo in December 
1996 and a Wood Warbler at Mida Creek in March, the wryneck record being 
about only the 15th for Kenya. It seemed also to be a particularly good year for 
Temminck's Stint, with at least six being found during the annual waterfowl 
counts alone. There had also been quite an influx of White Wagtails, with at least 
11 recorded again just during the annual waterfowl counts (and all seen at 
sewage ponds). Two 'spring' records of Sooty Falcons are unusual in that there 
are very few records of this species on its northward migration. 

There have been a significant number of new Atlas records submitted for this 
issue of Kenya Birds, some of which date back several years — many thanks to 
those who sent in their old records. One or two areas visited produced large 
numbers of new records, clearly sites which had never been visited by birders 
who submitted their observations. An example of this is Kimana Game 
Sanctuary with the swamp from which a waterfowl count team in January 1997 
turned up 31 new Atlas records in under 24 hours! Even common species such 
as African Jacana, Kittlitz's Plover, Ruff and Common Snipe were new for the 
atlas square. A good number of new records have also come from the Salt Lick 



44 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



Game Sanctuary and around the Taita Hills Lodge, clearly another previously 
under-observed area. A Black-faced Sandgrouse at Mwea National Park is a new 
atlas record that is some distance out of the species' normal range. It is worth 
sending in your records even if you think that the species is common in the area 
you are visiting — it is very possible that it may not have been reported from 
there before. 

Observations: Afrotropical species 



Great Crested Grebe: 1 immature bird 
seen with 9 ads, L. Oloidien, Naivasha, 
19/9/96, G&DI; 6 at same site, 31/2, BF 
— this is a high number of birds for this 
species whose population has crashed 
over the past 10-20 years; the immature 
bird was fully fledged and so could have 
flown in from a breeding site elsewhere; 
a pair of this species on Nairobi Dam on 
22/5, FN, is an exceptional record and 
was made not long before the dam 
became smothered with water hyacinth 

Black-necked Grebe (A# 3): [pres 50 A] 
L. Baringo, 22/12/96, WGH — this 
species can be very numerous on 
neighbouring L. Bogoria so it is no 
surprise for one to turn up on L. 
Baringo; single bird, L. Oloidien, 22/1, 
MMu; 300+ on L. Bogoria, 30/3, TL, 
GF — this site is known to attract large 
numbers of this species; a bird seen 
with the previous species on Nairobi 
Dam, 22/5, FN 

Great White Pelican: 50 heading east 
over Thigiri ridge, Nbi, 26/5, MM 

Frigatebird sp.: an imm frigatebird, 
probably a Greater Frigatebird, 
observed flying northwards along 
beach, Watamu, 17/3, RDG 

Shoebill: probably the same bird as in 
1996, reported from Amboseli, 16/7, TC 

Little Bittern: 1 on pond near Loresho 
Ridge, Nbi, 4/6, MM 

Dwarf Bittern: L. Bogoria, 30/3, TL, 
GF; Tsavo East NP, 26/4, A A; at least 1, 



Endashant Swamp, 1 & 14/6, MM; 1, 

Gongoni Salt Works, Malindi, 27/6, BF 

White-backed Night Heron (A# 28): 

[pres 75B] a pair of this exquisite and 
rare heron were present initially at 
Kitengela in Jan and later at Hippo 
Pools, Nbi NP, during May and were 
seen by a number of people. This is the 
second time it has been recorded here 
(cf. Kenya Birds 3(1), p. 28) though it 
was inadvertently not listed earlier as an 
Atlas update. On this occasion, it 
appeared as if they were going to breed, 
and indeed were seen sitting on a nest 
(21/3, CJ, PN, KD); however they were 
not there a week later and there was 
clear evidence of relatively large 
numbers of people having approached 
quite close to the nest tree, which may 
well have caused the birds to desert; 
alternatively, it may have only been a 
breeding attempt (practice?), as no eggs 
were ever actually reported. This acts as 
a reminder to all birders to be extremely 
careful when viewing nesting birds, as it 
often does not take much to make them 
desert. The birds were reported again 
from the same site 13/4, ND, MP, BF 

Little Egret (A# 35): [pres 88D] not 
uncommon in the swamp, Kimana 
Game Sanctuary, 19/1, FN, CJ et al. 

Western Reef Heron (A# 36): [pres 
114A] Beachcombers. Msambweni, 8/8/ 
95, WGH; 1 dark morph bird, 
Ferguson's Gulf, L. Turkana, 29/3, RB 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



45 



Black Heron: Lake Elmenteita, 10/2, 
AG; Lake Naivasha, 23/2, MMu; L. 
Baringo, 28/3, TL, GF 

Madagascar Squacco Heron: 1 in Masai 
Mara, 24/5, DR; 1 on pond, Nbi NP, 8/ 
6, WGH, MM 

Rufous-bellied Heron (A# 33): 1 at L. 
Baringo on 27/12/96 and 3 on 7/3; 10 in 
Masai Mara, 3/1; [post pres 61 A] 5 .at 
Awasi, near Ahero, 1/1, BF 

Great Egret (A# 39): [pres 88D] in 
swamp, Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/1, 
FN, CJ et al 

Purple Heron (A# 41): [pres 88D] 3-4 
seen in swamp, Kimana Game 
Sanctuary, 19/1, FN, CJ et al 

Black-headed Heron (A# 43): [pres 
88D] Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/1, 
FN, CJ et al 

Saddle-billed Stork: single bird 
overhead, Loldia Farm, northern shore 
of L. Naivasha, 12/6, J WG 

Glossy Ibis (A# 56): [pres 88D] several 
in swamp, Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/ 
1,FN, Cletal 

Lesser Flamingo (A# 60): [pres 62D] 2 
birds grounded (and later died) in the 
morning after a huge storm during the 
night, Kijabe, 12/4, MB — these two 
must have been moving between lakes 
in the Rift Valley and got caught up in 
the storm, but still so little is known 
about these mysterious birds 

White-backed Duck: single bird on L. 
Oloidien, 22/01, & a pair on the Dam 
next to Sirikwa Guest House, 
Kapenguria, 5/02, MMu; 2 pairs on 
coffee estate dam, Thika, 17/5, MM; 1 
on dam, Karura Forest, Nbi, 28/5, 
WMB 

Spur-winged Goose (A# 65): [pres 88D] 
small numbers in swamp, Kimana 
Game Sanctuary, 19/1, FN, CJ et al 



Egyptian Goose (A# 64): [pres 88D] 
around edge of swamp, Kimana Game 
Sanctuary, 19/1, FN, CJ et al 

Red-billed Teal: 6 birds at Mida Creek 
on 15/3 make an unusual record for this 
species which is uncommon at the 
coast, RDG 

Maccoa Duck: c. 500, Kongoni Lake, 
Naivasha on 13/1 and 730 counted on 
17/1, BF & 'large numbers' at Oloidien 
nearby on 22/1, MMu; up to 1 male and 
2 females on Endashant Swamp, 1-14/6, 
FN, WGH, MM; single bird on Nairobi 
Dam, 22/5, FN — Such large numbers 
as at Naivasha in Jarfuary are 
unprecedented for a species that is 
generally considered as declining. 
Where did these birds come from? And 
where did they go, as, merely 10 days 
later during the annual waterfowl count, 
not even one was observed at the same 
site? 

Bat Hawk: 1 in flight mid-morning, 
Thika, 5/1, and another over Thigiri 
Ridge, Nbi at dusk, 2/6, MM; another, 
Mara Safari Club, Masai Mara NR, 1/6, 
KB — an uncommon species that is not 
so often seen due to its crepuscular 
habits (i.e. active only at dawn and 
dusk) 

African Swallow- tailed Kite: a pair 
foraging in Hell's Gate NP, late 
afternoon on 18/2, MV; 3 at Kapedo, 8/ 
3, and 2 on 15/6, BF 

Brown Snake Eagle (A# 101): [post pres 
61 A] Homa Lime, Koru, nr. Kisumu, 
almost monthly during 1996, NW 

Southern Banded Snake Eagle (A# 
103): [pres 114C] 1 in Mwazaro area, 
just north of Shimoni, s. coast, 29/9, FN 

Banded Snake Eagle: 1 near Fig Tree 
Lodge, Masai Mara, 28/8, DR 



46 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



African Marsh Harrier: Island Camp, 
L. Baringo, 22/12/96, WGH; 1 over 
flooded grassland, Thika, 23 & 24/5, 
MM 

African Goshawk (A# 108): [pres 5 IB] 
Sambuni NR, 25/8/96, WGH — this 
represents the northern-most edge and 
lowest altitude of this species' main 
range in Kenya 

Little Sparrowhawk (A# 109): [pres 
87 A] Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, & 
[pres 76C] just north-west of Sultan 
Hamud, 17/2/95, WGH; single bird 
flying over the Papyrus, Lake Naivasha, 
23/1, & a bird seen perched in CF's 
Garden in Nbi 

Rufous-breasted Sparrowhawk: lone 
bird seen on Ngong Hills, 9/1, DF; a 
single bird, The Ark, Aberdares NP, 16/ 
5, DR (and seen daily by staff of The 
Ark) 

Grasshopper Buzzard (A# 120): [pres 
63A] 3, Naro Mom, 8/12/96, BF; 5, 
Yuhud dam, Wajir town, 10/3, MM 

Wahlberg's Eagle (A# 133): [pres 88C] 
Amboseli NP, 30/3, WGH 

Ayres's Hawk Eagle (A# 126): [pres 
114B] almost daily over Tudor Creek, 
Mombasa, Oct-March '95-'97, MR. 
This is a scarce and local bird, 
considered to be mostly resident in East 
Africa, though possibly wandering in 
the non-breeding season: coastal records 
have tended to be scarce and irregular 

— unlike this record. Due to the 
scarcity of the species, relatively little is 
known about its movements; southern 
African birds are thought to move north 

— but in the southern winter 
(April-Aug) when this bird is absent 
from Mombasa. The origin of this bird 
and the reason behind its regular 
movements therefore remain a mystery; 



single ad over Githambwini Dam, 
Thika, 22/6, CJ, JAL, KD 

Martial Eagle (A# 123): [pres 101C] 
Salt Lick Game Sanctuary, Tsavo West, 
12/6, AA 

Lanner Falcon (A# 146): [post pres 
61 A] Homa Lime, Koru, nr. Kisumu, 
Nov '96, NW; [pres 101C] Salt Lick 
Game Sanctuary, Tsavo West, 12/6, AA 

African Hobby: imm feeding on 
passerine in dead tree, Elsamere, 
Naivasha, 18/2, MV; 1 capturing insects 
in air, North Kinangop, 21/6 LAB 

Red-necked Falcon: 2 seen near 
Malindi, 14/7, DAT 

Harlequin Quail (A# 174): [pres 101C] 
Salt Lick Game Sanctuary, Tsavo West, 
12/6, AA 

Buff-spotted Flufftail: pair Kakamega 
Forest, 23/6, BF 

Red-chested Flufftail: as a result of 
much intensive searching, MM turned 
up 1 bird on 5 & 25/1 and at least 7 
between 17/5-7/6 in 6 sites around 
Thika; also 1 singing in reed-swamp, 
Gigiri, Nbi, 1 & 3/5 and 1-2 calling in 
response to tape, Nbi University dam, 8/ 
5; also pair calling Saiwa Swamp, 5/2, 
MMu 

Streaky-breasted Flufftail: at 3 sites 
near Thika — 2 birds singing & a third 
calling, 17/5; 2 singing, 23/5 and 5 
singing, 24/5 at same site; 1 calling, 23/ 
5 and another 24/5 at 2 different sites, 
MM, WGH; this scarce intra-African 
migrant was last recorded in July 1990 
— the good rains this year clearly 
created areas of ideal habitat which 
attracted good numbers of the both this 
species and several other uncommon 
intra-African migrant rallids. 

African Crake: 3 individuals seen, 
Masai Mara, 23-24/5, DR; ad bird 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



47 



flushed several times, Nbi NP, 7/6, MM, 
WGH; another ad ringed, Endashant 
Swamp, 14/6, NbiRG 

Striped Crake (A#): female flushed from 
flooded grassland, Endashant Swamp, 1/ 
6, MM, WGH; [pres 4C] adult caught 
and photographed after flying into a 
banda, Koobi Fora, L. Turkana, 28/6, 
DK — a very scarce intra-African 
migrant that is difficult to see, the latter 
record being particularly interesting 
being almost 600 km further north than 
any previous record in East Africa. Was 
this merely a vagrant that had overshot 
its normal wintering grounds, or is there 
a small population that spends the non- 
breeding season in southern Sudan? 

Allen's Gallinule: Island Camp, L. 
Baringo, 21-22/12/96, WGH; 2 seen, 
24/5, and 8, including 2 imm, on 7/6, 
Githumbwini Dam, Thika, MM; 3 still 
present 28/6, OD 

Purple Swamphen: at Githumbwini 
Dam, Thika: 2 on 2/1 and up to 4 in 
May, MM; 2 at same site 22/6, CJ, JAL, 
KD; 1 present papyrus swamp north of 
Thika, 23/5, MM 

Lesser Moorhen: to 20 present, 
Githumbwini Dam, Thika, 17/5; imm 
birds also seen at same site 7/6, MM, 
and 22/6, JAL, CJ, KD; 1 ad on pond 
near Langata Forest, Nbi NP, 26/5, MM; 
6-7 including imm bird, Endashant 
Swamp, 25/5, 2/6 & 14/6, FN, CJ, 
WGH; immature in NNP, 23/6, BF; also 
observed on L. Baringo, 4-5/8, ChJ — 
another intra-African migrant that is not 
often seen but that can be relatively 
common in a year with good rains (such 
as this) 

African Finfoot: 1 at Malu Camp, Masai 
Mara, 16/2, RB 



Denham's Bustard: a pair by the road, 
Naro Moru, 3/3, BF — this threatened 
species is thought to now number less 
than 300 individuals in Kenya, so all 
records are of value 

Kori Bustard (A# 209): [pres 101C] Salt 
Lick Game Sanctuary, Tsavo West, 12/ 
6,AA 

Crested Bustard (A# 206): [pres 87 A] 
Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, WGH 

African Jacana (A# 211): [pres 88D] 
several seen on swamp, Kimana Game 
Sanctuary, 19/1, FN, CJ et al 

Lesser Jacana: L. Naivasha, 23/1, MMu 

Greater Painted-snipe (A# 213): [pres 
87A] Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, 
WGH; several birds seen including one 
ringed, Endashant Swamp, 25/5, 2/6 & 
14/6, FN, MM, WGH, NbiRG; present 
on Nairobi Dam, 22/5, FN; single 
female, Safariland Hotel, L. Naivasha, 
31/7, CJ 

Pied Avocet: 2 birds at Sabaki River 
mouth on 19/3 are very unusual as this 
species is rare along the coast, RDG 

Black-winged Stilt (A# 267): [pres 88D] 
common around edge of swamp, 
Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/1, FN, C J 
et al 

Spotted Thick-knee (A# 275): [pres 
87A] Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, 
WGH; [pres 15C] Kalacha, Chalbi 
Desert, Sept. '96, MB 

Heuglin's Courser (A# 280): [pres 
10 1C] Salt Lick Game Sanctuary, Tsavo 
West, 12/6, AA 

Temminck's Courser (A# 278): [post 
pres 88D] single bird near Mbirikani 
(Makutano) centre, 28/5, CJ 

Collared Pratincole (A# 288): [pres 
88D] 15-20 birds, Kimana Game 
Sanctuary, 19/1, FN, CJ et al 



48 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



Kittlitz's Plover (A# 234): [pres 88D] 

not uncommon, Kimana Game 

Sanctuary, 19/1, FN, CJ et al 
Chestnut-banded Plover (A# 230): [pres 

88C] 1 at Amboseli NP, 19/8, DR 
Caspian Plover: Game Ranching Co, 

Athi River, 3/4, WV, TM — common in 

Masai Mara, this is an uncommonly 

reported species from the Athi-Kapiti 

plains 
Blacksmith Plover (A# 217): [pres 62C] 

Game Ranching Co., Athi River, 3/4, 

VW&TM 
Spur-winged Plover: a few birds in grass 

by water, Nguuni Farm, Bamburi, 

Mombasa, 8/3, MR 
Senegal Plover: 2 near Aitong, Masai 

Mara, 29/7, DR 
Roseate Tern (A# 306): [pres 114A] 

offshore from Green Oasis Hotel, 

Msambweni, 19/6, AA 
White-cheeked Tern (A# 308): [pres 

114A] Beachcombers, Msambweni, 8/8/ 

95, WGH 
Black-faced Sandgrouse (A# 319): [pres 

63D] Mwea NP, 25/3/95, WGH — this 

record is some way out of range for the 

species which is not known from the 

upper Tana River area. 
Lichtenstein's Sandgrouse: a bird at L. 

Bogoria represents the south-western 

extreme of this species range, 31/3, KD 
Yellow-throated Sandgrouse (A# 322): 

[pres 88D] Kimana Game Sanctuary, 

19/1, FN, CJetal' 
Eastern Bronze-naped Pigeon: pair in 

Arboretum, Nbi, 13/4; pair seen Thigiri 

ridge on both 19/4 and 26/5 and single 

bird same site, 22/6, MM 
Speckled Pigeon (A# 324): [pres 15C] 

around Kalacha centre, Chalbi Desert, 

Sept. '96, MB; [pres 88D] Kimana, 19/ 

1,FN, CJetal 



Feral Pigeon (A# 323): [pres 88D] . 

common in Kimana centre, 19/1, FN, 

CJ et al; [pres 114A] Green Oasis Hotel, 

Msambweni, 19/6, AA 
African White- winged Dove: abundant 

around Ramu, only a few at Mandera, 

23/4, BF 
African Grey Parrot: 6 birds observed 

for 2 minutes playing in top of dead 

tree, garden of Rondo Retreat Centre, 

Kakamega Forest, 30/1, MMu 
Purple-crested Turaco: pair at Blue 

Posts Hotel, Thika, 2/3, BF — this rare 

and restricted turaco is rapidly declining 

and endangered in Kenya 
White-bellied Go-away-bird: NNP, 13/ 

4, ND, MP & BF — a rare bird for the 

NNP 
Great Spotted Cuckoo: at Oltepesi, 

Magadi-Nbi road, 22/5, SP, EO, HH 
Black Cuckoo (A# 366): [pres 91B] 

Lamu, 22/4, WGH — this species is 

rare along the Kenya coast 
White-faced Scops Owl (A# 384): [pres 

50B] observed in Acacia tortilis by dry 

sand lugga, 01 Malu Ranch, Laikipia, 1/ 

1, SS; [pres 75D] heard persistently 

calling through the night, Melepo Hills, 

Kajiado, 23/2, CJ, J&JW — this is the 

first record for this species in Kajiado 

District and some 100 km from the 

nearest previous record 
African Wood Owl (A# 389): [pres 62D] 

Kieni Forest, 25/1, WGH, MM, RR 
Donaldson-Smith's Nightjar: common 

and very vocal, Lewa Downs, 19-21/2, 

BF 
Freckled Nightjar: 1+ singing at night 

along rocky escarpment beside 

Endashant Swamp 13/6, CJ, MM 
Gabon Nightjar (A# 408): [pres 114A] 

Beachcombers,- Msambweni, 8/8/95, 

WGH 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



49 



Slender-tailed Nightjar (A# 406): [pres 
62D] a single bird photographed on the 
ground, Kijabe, 17/4, MB — this 
observation at c.2,220 m., is one of the 
highest altitudinal records for this 
species 

Mottled Swift (A# 416): [pres 38C] the 
only species of swift observed in the 
area, Suguta River, Kapedo, 31/5, AG 

White-rumped Swift (A# 422): [pres 
88D] Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/1, 
FN, CJ et al 

Horus Swift (A# 423): [pres 87A] 
Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, WGH; 
several groups seen along Mara River, 
Masai Mara, 23-24/5, DR 

Little Swift (A# 424): [pres 88D] 
Kimana, 19/1, FN, CJ et al. 

White-headed Mousebird: at Kurungu, 
South Horr, 14/11/96, KD, MB; 3-4 
birds seen, c. 3 km south of Mbirikani 
(Makutano) centre, nr Kimana 28/2, AS, 
CJ — the latter record represents the 
less common race leucocephalus which 
is distinct from turned of Samburu and ' 
further north 

Malachite Kingfisher (A# 434): [pres 
88D] not uncommon around swamp, 
Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/1, FN, CJ 
et al. 

Madagascar Bee-eater (A# 446): [pres 
61C] flock with immatures, Arroket Tea 
Estate, Sotik, 4/8, IF 

Carmine Bee-eater (A# 452): [pres 88D] 
single bird, Kimana Game Sanctuary, 
19/1, FN, Clet al 

Blue-breasted Bee-eater: 4 on 31/12/96 
& 2 on 11/3 at Sio River near Nambale, 
BF 

Cinnamon-chested Bee-eater (A# 444): 
[pres 52C] c. 5 birds near Kindani River 
Camp, Meru NP, 30/3, AG — this 
species is quite common on the 



Nyambeni hills just to the west of the 

site these birds were seen 
Lilac-breasted Roller (A# 455): [pres 

15C] Kalacha, Chalbi Desert, Sept. '96, 

MB 
Rufous-crowned Roller (A# 456): [pres 

87A] Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, 

WGH 
Green Wood -hoopoe (A# 459): [pres 

101 C] Salt Lick Game Sanctuary, Tsavo 

West, 12/6, AA 
Southern Ground Hornbill: a single 

bird in NNP on 13/4 and probably the 

same individual on 23/4 is unusual for 

this species, BF, ND, MP- 
White-eared Barbet: Ziwani Tented 

Camp, L. Jipe, 28/5, AA 
Yellow-rumped Tinkerbird (A# 495): 

[pres 63D] Mwea NP, 25/3/95, WGH 
Hairy-breasted Barbet: 2 pairs seen, 

Rondo Retreat Centre / Isecheno area, 

Kakamega Forest, 25-30/1, MMu 
Red-fronted Barbet (A# 482): [pres 

62B] Solio Ranch, Laikipia, 15/6, AG 
Lesser Honeyguide (A# 501): [pres 

87A] Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, 

WGH 
Pallid Honeyguide (A# 505): 1 foraging 

around base of tree, Hippo Pools, 

NNP, 8/4, BF; single bird, Sekenani 

Camp, Masai Mara, 5/8, CJ 
Eastern Honey bird (A# 508): [pres 

62D] Kieni Forest, 6/9, WGH, MM, JJ 
Wahlberg's Honeybird (A# 509): [post 

pics 88D] single bird, Oloorsikitok hill, 

Mbirikani (Makutano) centre, 28/5, 

LAB 
Nubian Woodpecker (A# 512): [pres 

15C] Kalacha, Chalbi Desert, Sept. '96, 

MB 
Grey Woodpecker (A# 522): [pres 87A] 

Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, WGH; [pres 

49A] Sergoit Rock, Iten, 8/10/95, CK 



50 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



African Broadbill: 2 birds calling, 

Arabuko-Sokoke Forest, 25/1, DF; pair 

calling same location, 21/2, MMu; 

single bird seen displaying, 1 km west 

of Rondo Forest Retreat, Kakamega, 23/ 

6, DH; 
Red-winged Lark (A# 531): [pres. 101C] 

Taita Hills Lodge, 1/6/94, WGH 
Somali Short-toed Lark: 6 birds seen at 

Mt. Suswa, 22/6, BF — this is the first 

record for this species from the area for 

10-15 years. 
Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark (A# 

547): [pres 91C] 2 or 3 groups of birds 

seen c.50 km north of Malindi towards 

Tana River Delta, 14/2, MMu — this is 

the first record from the coastal 

lowlands for over 25 years though has 

been infrequently recorded from the 

Tana Delta 
Plain (Af. Sand) Martin (A# 549): [pres 

88D] Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/1, 

FN, CJ et al 
Grey-rumped Swallow: 2 at Gilgil, 15/5, 

KB 
Blue Swallow: 1 ad at Sio River, near 

Madende, 19/6, BF 
Wire-tailed Swallow (A# 552): [pres 

87A] Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, 

WGH 
Ethiopian Swallow (A# 554): [pres 

114A] Beachcombers, Msambweni, 8/8/ 

95, WGH 
Red-rumped Swallow (A# 556): [pres 

101C] Taita Hills Lodge, 1/6/94, WGH 
Mosque Swallow (A# 557): [pres 49A] 

Sergoit Rock, Iten, 8/10/95, CK 
White-headed Saw- wing (A# 565): [pres 

49B] seen at Kormor, Kerio Valley, 29/ 

3, MB 
Golden Pipit (A# 824): [pres 50C] an 

unusually western record at L. Bogoria, 

31/3, KD, MB 



Malindi Pipit (A# 823): [post pres 91B] 
single bird on Lamu Airstrip, 22-23/4, 
WGH 

Bush Pipit: at least 2 birds watched 
down to 10 m., near Endashant Swamp, 
2/6 and 14/6, CJ, MM, WGH 

Pangani Longclaw: Game Ranching Co., 
Athi River, 3/4, WV & TM; NNP, 13/4, 
BF, ND, MP — this is an infrequently 
recorded species on the Athi Plains 

Rosy-breasted Longclaw (A# 827): 
[pres 88C] Amboseli NP, 30/3, WGH — 
an unusual record for this partially 
nomadic species, some way out of 
normal range; possibly a wanderer 
attracted to the water at Amboseli at the 
end of a very long dry period 

Zanzibar Sombre Greenbul: found to 
be resident along Leopard Cliffs, NNP, 
BF 

Grey-olive Greenbul (A# 629): resident 
(?) below Leopard Cliffs, NNP, first 
recorded 23/2, BF 

Northern Brownbul: apparently 
undescribed population along Ewaso 
Nyiro River, Shombole, early '97, BF 

Arrow-marked Babbler (A# 601): [pres 
61C] group in garden, Arroket Estate, 
Sotik, 24/5/96, IF 

Brown Babbler (A# 602): [post pres 
49D] Eldama Ravine, 7-10/4, MB; also 
at Kabarnet Hotel, Kabarnet, 9/8, FN 

Scaly Babbler: numerous at Ramu in 
rank scrub, particularly nr Daua River, 
23/4, BF 

Rufous Chatterer (A# 595): [pres 87 A] 
Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, WGH 

Scaly Chatterer (A# 596): [pres 75D] 
many sightings along Magadi Road 
from first bridge to Olorgesailie, early 
1997, BF 

Grey-winged Robin: Saiwa Swamp NP, 
24/6, DH 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



51 



Cape Robin-Chat (A# 670): [pres 74C] 
Sekenani Camp, Masai Mara, 4/8, CJ 

Brown-chested Alethe (A# 663): [pres 
63B] 1 seen, Mem Forest, 26/12/96, BF 

Riippell's Robin-Chat (A# 667): [post 
pres 62D] Kieni Forest, 25/1, WGH, 
MM, RR 

White-browed Robin-Chat (A# 666): 
[pres 5 IB] Samburu-Buffalo Springs 
NR, 2/4/94, & [pres 114A] 
Beachcombers, Msambweni, 8/8/95, & 
[pres 63D] Mwea NP, 25/3/95, WGH 

White-browed Scrub Robin (A# 656): 
[pres 114A] Beachcombers, 

Msambweni, 8/8/95, WGH 

Brown-backed Scrub Robin: pair 
present Karura Forest, Nbi, April/May, 
MM; singing male in scrubland just 
westofThika, 28/6, FN 

Capped Wheatear (A# 636): [pres 63C] 
Blue Valley area near Rupingazi River, 
Embu, 10/4, GTN, 

Northern Anteater Chat (A# 653): [post 
pres 49D], Eldama Ravine, 7-10/4, MB 

Gambaga Flycatcher: 2, Kerio Valley, 9/ 
3, BF 

Chapin's Flycatcher: pair "always in 
same location just east of Ikuywa 
Bridge", Kakamega Forest, BF 

African Grey Flycatcher (A# 793): 
[pres 87 A] Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/ 
94, WGH; [pres 62B] Solio Ranch, 15/ 
6, AG 

Pale Flycatcher (A# 792): [pres 51B] 
Samburu-Buffalo Springs NR, 2/4/94, 
& [pres 52C] Meru NP, 7/4/96, WGH 

Lead-coloured Flycatcher: L. Baringo, 
28/3, TL, GF — this is an uncommon 
and infrequently reported species, 
particularly from Baringo which is on 
the eastern edge of the range for the 
nominate race 

Broad-tailed Warbler: 1 below Impala 
Point, NNP, 13/4, BF; a pair, with 1 



displaying, scrubby grassland near 
Thika, 23-24/5, MM — a local and 
uncommon species that is most 
common in western Kenya but also 
known to occur locally around Nbi & 
Thika. 

Red-faced Cisticola (A# 736): [pres 
76C] just north-west of Sultan Hamud, 
17/2/95, WGH v— a small extension of 
this species' range south-east from the 
Nairobi area. 

Whistling Cisticola: 1, Sip River near 
Madende Creek, 18/6, BF 

Foxy Cisticola: 2 on escarpment near 
Barnley's, Kitale, 4/4, MM — an 
uncommon and local species about 
which very little is known. 

Tiny Cisticola (A# 729): [pres 88D] 
Oloorsikitok hill, Mbirikani 

(Makutano), nr. Kimana, 28/5, and [pres 
75B] in scrub adjacent to Endashant 
Swamp, 2/6, CJ 

Winding Cisticola (A# 740): [pres 88D] 
Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/1, FN, CJ 
etal 

Boran Cisticola (A# 728): [pres 26B] 
Gatab, Mt Kulal, Oct. '96, MB 

Ashy Cisticola (A# 724): [pres 87A] 
Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, WGH 

Zitting Cisticola (A# 719): [pres 87 A] 
Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, & [pres 
114A] Beachcombers, Msambweni, 8/8/ 
95, WGH — this species seems to have 
extended it's range south along the coast 
over the past 10 years or so with it first 
recorded in QSD 102D in the late '80's, 
114B in '93 and now 114Ain '95 

Desert Cisticola (A# 720): [pres 101C] 
Taita Hills Lodge, 1/6/94, WGH; [post 
pres 88D] 1 pair observed near 
Mbirikani (Makutano) centre, nr 
Kimana, 27/5, CJ 

Black-collared Apalis (A# 758): [pres 
62D] Kieni Forest, 25/1, WGH, MM, RR 



52 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



Red-fronted Warbler (A# 747): [post 
pres 87 A] Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, 
WGH 

Grey-capped Warbler (A# 763): [pres 
49D] Eldama Ravine, 7-10/4, MB 

Yellow-bellied Eremomela (A# 764): 
[pres 62B] Solio Ranch, Laikipia, 15/6, 
AG 

Buff-bellied Warbler (A# 749): [pres 
87A] Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, 
WGH 

Brown Parisoma (A# 774): [pres 76A] 
Chania Swamp, just west of Thika, 15/ 
6, FN 

Northern Grey Tit (A# 581): [post pres 
88D] 2 birds on eastern side of 
Oloorsikitok hill, Mbirikani, 28/5, CJ, 
PN 

Spotted Creeper: after a long search, this 
elusive bird was finally found 
"creeping" up tree-trunks near Sirikwa 
Safari Camp, Kapenguria, on 27/6 by 
DH 

Black-and-white Flycatcher: 2 birds 
were observed near Kindani River 
Camp, Meru NP, 30/3, AG. 

Black-throated Wattle-eye (A# 803): 
[pres 63D] Mwea NP, 25/3/95, WGH 

Grey-crested Helmet-Shrike: 4 at Siana 
Springs, eastern Mara, 4/1, BF — one 
of the best-known sites for this rare 
species 

Chestnut-fronted Helmet-shrike (A# 
873): [pres 52C] 2 birds of this 
beautiful species were watched around 
the campsite, Kindani River, Meru NP, 
30/3, AG — a rare species in the forest 
patches around Meru, these birds would 
be right on the eastern edge of that 
population's range. 

Taita Fiscal (A# 865): [pres 10 1C] Taita 
Hills Lodge, 1/6/94, WGH 



Sulphur-breasted Bush-Shrike (A# 
852): [pres 114A] Beachcombers, 
Msambweni, 8/8/95, WGH 

Rosy-patched Bush-Shrike (A# 843): 

[pres 87 A] Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/ 
94, WGH 

Pringle's Puffback: Frequent along 
Magadi Road in Commiphora from first 
bridge to as far as Icross turning but 
apparently no lower, BF 

Green-headed Oriole: observed in 
Shimba Hills, 10/5, AA — an 
uncommon and local species, really 
only found in this locality 

Pied Crow (A# 577): [pres 88D] Kimana 
centre, 19/1, FN, CJ et al 

Cape Rook (A# 580): [pres 37C] Tartar, 
Makutano, 8/10/95, JM 

Shelley's Starling: 2 birds in dry Acacia 
scrub by Malindi-Tsavo East road, 20/2, 
MMu 

Sharpe's Starling: Mt Elgon NP, Aug. 
1996, MB; group of birds, tree tops, Mt 
Elgon, 4/2, MMu; 2 birds in forest, 
Kijabe, 21/6, KD, AB; 10+ seen 
together, Aberdare NP, 16/5, DR 

Fischer's Starling (A# 891): [pres 87 A] 
Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, WGH — 
this is one of the most western records 
for this species 

Magpie Starling: observed at Kurungu, 
South Horr, 14/11/96, KD, MB; groups 
feeding in fruiting trees, L. Baringo, II 
2, also in flight and settling in Arabuko- 
Sokoke Forest, 19/2, and again more 
along Malindi-Tsavo East road, 20/2, 
MMu; large group in Acacias, Nguuni 
Farm, Bamburi, Mombasa, 8/3 and a 
few remaining on 19/3, MR — the first 
record for this species at this site despite 
many years of observation 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



53 



Western Violet-backed Sunbird: 1 

female, Mrs Barnley's garden, Kitale, 3/ 
4, MM — scarce and local, the Kitale 
area is the best-known site for the 
species. 

Amethyst Sunbird (A# 932): [post pres 
88D] Mbirikani (Makutano), Emali- 
Loitokitok road, 28/5, CJ 

Malachite Sunbird: extraordinary 
migration, easterly along top of Leopard 
Cliffs, NNP, 23/2, involving 14 birds in 
ten minutes, BF 

House Sparrow (A# 992): [pres 102D] 
Kilifi, 02/01, NW; this introduced 
species was first seen in Magadi 5 years 
ago, then in Kiserian nearer Nbi 3 year 
ago and has now been recorded in 
several place around Nbi (Ngara, 
Githurai, Ngummo, Westlands, Nyayo 
Stadium), in Thika [pres 76A] and even 
the Thika-Kinangop road to a village 
below Kieni [pres 62d] (BF); [pres 88D] 
Kimana town, 18/1, FN, and Mbirikani 
(Makutano) centre, nr. Kimana 28/5, CJ; 
[pres 101C] Salt Lick Game Sanctuary, 
Tsavo West, 12/6, & [pres 114A] Green 
Oasis Hotel, Msambweni, 19/6, AA 

Somali Sparrow: 3 at Kapedo on 28/12/ 
96, and 9 on 15/6, BF; 20+ Lodwar 
Town, 2/4, RB 

White-headed Buffalo-Weaver (A# 
1004): [pres 87 A] Shombole, L. Natron, 
1/5/94, WGH; 1 in Masai Mara, 15/8, 
DR — an unusual species for Mara. 

Red-billed Buffalo- Weaver (A# 1003): 
[pres 87A] Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/ 
94, WGH 

White-browed Sparrow-Weaver (A# 
997): 1 seen Thigiri ridge, Nbi, 24 & 
31/5, MM — at c. 1,700m altitude, this 
is a high record for this species which 
has moved into Nairobi from the south 
over the past 10 years or so; [pres 101C] 



Salt Lick Game Sanctuary, Tsavo West, 

12/6, AA 
Baglafecht Weaver (A# 960): [pres 74C] 

Sekenani Camp, Masai Mara, 4/8, CJ 
Spectacled Weaver (A# 962): [pres 51B] 

Samburu & Buffalo Springs NR, 29/8/ 

93, WGH 

Juba Weaver: quite scarce along Daua 
River, Ramu, 23/4, BF, TS, JR — an 
uncommonly reported species due to its 
range in Kenya restricted to just the 
N.E. corner 

Vitelline Masked Weaver (A# 954): 
[pres 49B] at Kormor, Kerio Valley, 29/ 
3, MB 

Speke's Weaver (A# 942): [pres 51B] 
Samburu-Buffalo Springs NR, 2/4/94, 
& [pres 52C] Mem NP, 7/4/96, WGH 
— an unusually low record for this 
normally highland species 

Spectacled Weaver (A# 961): [pres 5 IB] 
Samburu-Buffalo Springs NR, 2/4/94, 
WGH 

Black-headed Weaver (A# 940): [pres 
88C] Amboseli NP, 16/3, WV, TM 

Fire-fronted Bishop (A# 977): [pres 
101C] bird in male breeding plumage, 
Salt Lick Game Sanctuary, Tsavo West, 
12/6, AA 

Northern Red Bishop: small numbers 
along Daua River, Ramu, undoubtedly 
Ethiopian race pusillus which, unlike 
nominate, is found in scrub and perches 
in trees, April, BF 

White-winged Widowbird (A# 979): 
[pres 87A] Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/ 

94, WGH — this probably represents 
wanderers coming to the area in 
response to rains; [pres 101C] Salt Lick 
Game Sanctuary, Tsavo West, 12/6, AA 

Hartlaubs Marsh Widowbird (A# 
983): [pres 48C] 2 at Sio River on 
territories, 18/6, BF 



54 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



Parasitic Weaver: frequent in NNP with 
roost of up to 40 birds in swamp below 
Eland Lookout, mid-'97, BF 

Grey-headed Negrofinch (A# 1005): 
[pres 62D] Kieni Forest, 25/1, WGH, 
MM, RR — this is not an unexpected 
record and in fact has probably been 
observed here before but never reported 
for the Atlas update 

Orange- winged Pytilia: a pair at 
Kanyarkwat west of Kongelai, 3/4, RB 

Red-headed Bluebill (A# 1015): [pres 
52C] Campi ya Nyati, Meru NP, 8/1, PH 
— an uncommon species in the Meru 
forests 

Bar-breasted Firefinch (A# 1017): [pres 
60D] a pair mist-netted and ringed, 
Raganga, Kisii, 19/4, OM — this 
represents a range extension south and 
the first record for this species in Kenya 
south of the Winam Gulf 

Red-billed Firefinch (A# 1019): [pres 
49B] at Kormor, Kerio Valley, 29/3, MB 

Red-cheeked Cordon-bleu (A# 1024): 
[pres 114A] Green Oasis Hotel, 
Msambweni, 19/6, A A 

Zebra Waxbill (A# 1039): [pres 76C] 
just north-west of Sultan Hamud, 17/2/ 

95, & [pres 63D] Mwea NP, 25/3/95, 
WGH 

Locust-Finch: at Sio River, 2 on 31/12/ 

96, & 4 on 18/6, BF 

Quail-Finch (A# 1040): [pres 87A] 
Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, WGH 

African Silverbill (A# 1044): [pres 15C] 
Kalacha, Chalbi Desert, 3/3, MB; [pres 



76C] Game Ranching Co., Athi River, 
3/4, WV & TM; [pres 101C] Salt Lick 
Game Sanctuary, Tsavo West, 1 2/6, AA 

Grey-headed Silverbill (A# 1045): [pres 
87A] Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, & 
[pres 101C] Taita Hills Lodge, 1/6/94, 
WGH 

Black-and-white Mannikin (A# 1042): 
[pres 52C] 10+ birds, Kindani River, 
Meru NP, 30/3, AG — this record 
represents birds at the eastern limit of 
the Mt. Kenya highlands population 

Cut-throat Finch (A# 1046): [pres 
101 C] Salt Lick Game Sanctuary, Tsavo 
West, 12/6, AA 

White-bellied Canary (A# 1057): [pres 
88D] Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/1, 
FN, CJ et al 

Brimstone Canary (A# 1059): [pres 
87A] Shombole, L. Natron, 1/5/94, 
WGH 

Southern Grosbeak Canary: Endashant 
Swamp, 13/9, WGH, MM — an 
uncommon and local resident species, 
endemic to southern Kenya and 
northern Tanzania, this marks the 
northern-most edge of its small range 

Stripe-breasted Seedeater: 3 at Timau 
junction, 13/6, BF 

House Bunting: a singing male near 
Eliye Springs, West Turkana, 1/4, RB 

Somali Golden-breasted Bunting (A# 
1051): [pres 87 A] Shombole, L. Natron, 
1/5/94, WGH 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



55 



Observations: Palaearctic species 



White Stork: 20+ in Masai Mara on 24/5 
represent a very late date for this 
species, and a single bird on 15/8 near 
Governor's Camp, followed by 3 near 
Sekenani Camp, Masai Mara, an early 
record, DR; 4 at Iten, 22/6, BF, are very 
unusual — could they have been birds 
from the southern Africa population? 

Eurasian Wigeon: a drake on Kongoni 
Lake, Naivasha, 17/1, BF 

Common Teal: a male among other 
ducks, new Nakuru Sewage Ponds, 12/ 

1, CJ; a single female, Lewa Downs, 20/ 

2, BF 

Osprey: 1 in NNP, 2/2, BF 

Montagu's Harrier: 20+ hunting at dusk 
and later roosting together on the 
ground, Lewa Downs, Nanyuki, 4/1, JW 

Eurasian Marsh Harrier (A# 97): [pres 
76C] just north-west of Sultan Hamud, 
17/2/95, & [pres 63D] Mwea NP, 25/3/ 
95, WGH; [pres 88A] female/imm near 
a watering point along water pipeline, 
Olosideti, Emali-Loitokitok road, 18/1, 
CJ, FN 

Eurasian Sparrowhawk (A# 106): [post 
pres 26B] an imm female which flew 
into a house, was caught, photographed 
and released, Gatab, Mt Kulal, 16/9/96, 
MB — an extremely early record for 
this rare species for which there are less 
than 20 Kenyan records all between 
Nov and March. (This record was 
mentioned in the Overview of Records 
in Kenya Birds 5(2), but inadvertently 
missed from the main list.) 

Common Buzzard (A# 117): [pres 52C] 
Mem NP, 7/4/96, WGH 

Booted Eagle: 2 birds (1 pale phase, 1 a 
tatty dark phase), Nbi NP, 17/1, CJ, ST 



Eurasian Hobby (A# 152): [pres 63D] 
Mwea NP, 25/3/95, WGH; 12 birds 
feeding on termites, Shaba NR, 4/4f CJ; 
c. 15 birds soaring near Murungaru 
centre, N. Kinangop, 6/4, JWG 

Sooty Falcon: at least 4 feeding on 
termites after very heavy rain, Tudor 
Creek, Mombasa, 2/5, MR; 1 on 
telephone wires, Kampi ya Samaki turn- 
off, L. Baringo, 3/5, MV 

Corncrake: 1 on ILRI compound, 
Kabete, Nbi, 20/4, RB 

Little Ringed Plover: 20+ at Dandora 
Sewage Ponds, 8/1, CJ; 'several' near 
main gate, L. Bogoria NP, 8/2, MMu 

Lesser Sand Plover: a single bird among 
large numbers of waders on new 
Nakuru Sewage Ponds, 12/1, CJ 

Grey Plover: single bird at tip of 
Crescent Island, Naivasha, 26/1, CJ — 
this species is only occasional inland 
and then usually between Sept-Nov. ■ 

Little Stint (A# 239): [pres 88D] several 
birds, Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/1, 
FN, CJ et al. 

Temminck's Stint: single bird, Dandora 
Sewage Ponds, 8/1; 1 by lake shore on 
11/1 and 2 at new Nakuru Sewage 
Ponds on 12/1 (one possibly the same as 
that of 11th); 2 near Crescent Island, L. 
Naivasha, 26/1, CJ 

Ruff (A# 247): [pres 88D] numerous on 
swamp, Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/1, 
FN, CJ et al.\ a single bird, Sabaki 
River mouth, 19/3, RDG — one of 
relatively few coastal records of this 
mainly inland species 

Common Snipe (A# 249): [pres 88D] 
common in shallow edges of swamp, 
Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/1, FN, CJ 
etal. 



56 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



Marsh Sandpiper (A# 260): [pres 88D] 
frequent around edge of swamp, 
Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/1, FN, CJ 
et al. 

Common Greenshank (A# 261): [pres 
88D] several individuals in the swamp, 
Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/1, FN, CJ 
et al. 

Wood Sandpiper: a single over- 
summering bird in NNP, 23/6, BF — 
most June-July records tend to be in the 
Rift Valley for this species 

Red-necked Phalarope (A# 269): [pres 
51C] on a dam in Lewa Downs, Isiolo, 
16/10/96, FK — this beautiful wader 
normally winters many kilometres off- 
shore in the Indian Ocean; there are 
only a handful of inland records such as 
this one and most have tended to be on 
the Rift Valley lakes 

Black-headed Gull: an ad in full 
breeding plumage, Gongoni Salt Works, 
nr Malindi, 27/6, BF — since the 1970s, 
this species has become a more regular 
and numerous Palaearctic visitor, 
though this observation constitutes the 
first over-summering record since the 
1980s 

Gull-billed Tern (A# 301): [pres 63D] 
Mwea NP, 25/3/95, & [pres 88C] 
Amboseli NP, 30/3, WGH — an 
unusual record for this species away 
from the Rift Valley lakes or the coast 

Caspian Tern: 2 birds at Gongoni Salt 
Works, nr. Malindi, 27/6, BF — another 
unusual over-summering record though 
known to occur all year off the 
Tanzanian coast 

Sandwich Tern: 1 at Sabaki River 
Mouth, 10/1, BF 

Eurasian Swift (A# 418): [pres 88C] 
Amboseli NP, 30/3, WGH 

Eurasian Bee-eater: 15+ birds heading 
north, N. Kinangop, 8/4, JWG 



Blue-cheeked Bee-eater (A# 447): [pres 
88D] Kimana Game Sanctuary, 19/1, 
FN, CJ et al. ; juv. perched on tree-top, 
Ndara Ranch, Voi, mid-March, MR 

Eurasian Roller (A# 454): [pres 26D] 
Kurungu, South Horr, 16/11/96, KD 

Eurasian Wryneck (A# 511): [pres 50A] 
beside L. Baringo, 22/12/96, WGH 

Common House Martin: 300+ Tagabi 
Tea Estate, Kericho, 20/10/96; 150+ 
Chemelil, Kisumu, 7/11/96, KDK; 5-10 
with Barn Swallows, Delamere's Camp, 
L. Elmenteita, 11/1, and 1 with other 
hirundines, Nbi NP, 17/1, CJ 

White Wagtail: 10 birds at Mogotio, 27/ 
12/96, BF; 4 birds, Dandora Sewage 
Ponds, 8/1, and 7+ at new Nakuru 
Sewage Ponds, 12/1, CJ; single bird at 
hot springs, L. Elmenteita, 30/1, JWG; 2 
birds L. Bogoria NP, 8/2, MMu — a 
very good year for this relatively 
uncommon migrant 

Grey Wagtail: in the Gorge, Hell's Gate 
NP, 1/3, JWG 

Red-throated Pipit (A# 816): 70+ 
around new Nakuru Sewage Ponds, 12/ 
1; [pres 88D] a few birds seen, Kimana 
Game Sanctuary, 19/1, FN, CJ et al; 
[pres 51C] 2 birds in spring plumage 
foraging in field after heavy storm, 
beside main road, 25 km east of Timau, 
7/4, CJ 

Rufous Bush Chat (A# 658): [pres 63D] 
Mwea NP, 25/3/95, WGH 

Irania (A# 646): [pres 50B] a singe bird 
at 01 Malu Ranch, Rumuruti, 23/1, 
C&RF; single bird, NNP, 23/2, BF — 
an unusual date for this area 

Common Redstart: single male, L. 
Baringo, 28/12/96, BF — one of the 
rarer Palaearctic migrants 

Northern Wheatear: ad male, Voi 
Lodge, 29/7, T&MG — this is an 
extremely early record for this species 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



57 



and may in fact be of an individual that 
over-summered here. 

Great Reed Warbler: L. Bogoria NP, 30/ 
3, TL, GF 

Olivaceous Warbler: bird singing daily 
in Acacia tree, car park, NMK, Nbi, 15/ 
2-26/3, CJ 

Olive-tree Warbler: Amboseli NP, 30/3, 
WGH 

Icterine Warbler (A# 701): 1 at Siana 
Springs, eastern Mara, 15/1, BF — for 
7th successive year in traditional 
wintering site; [post pres 75B] single 
bird singing, NMK, Nbi, 8/2, CJ; 

Barred Warbler: 2 birds, cliffs west of 
L. Baringo, 7/2, MMu; Amboseli NP, 
30/3, WGH 

Common Whitethroat (A# 706): [pres 
26D] Kurungu, South Horr, 16/11/96, 
KD, MB; female, Thigiri Ridge, Nbi, 3/ 
5, MM 

Wood Warbler: 1 bird with Willow 
Warblers feeding in mangroves beside 
Mida Creek, Watamu, 11/3, RDG, WK 
— only the second coastal record of this 
scarce species (and only c.25 Kenyan 



records), the first in 1$79, being also 
both at Mida Creek and during March 

Chiffchaff (A# 714): 1 calling, Met 
Station, Naro Mora, Mt. Kenya, 23/12/ 
96, BF; [pres 62D] single bird, Kieni 
Forest, 25/1, WGH, MM, RR — this 
scarce migrant is probably often 
overlooked due to it's similarity to the 
commoner Willow Warbler 

Red-backed Shrike: incredible fall of 
c.2,500 birds in NNP, 5/4, rapidly 
diminishing over the next few days, BF 

Red-tailed Shrike (A# 858): [pres 26D] 
Kurungu, South Horr, 16/11/96, MB 

Lesser Grey Shrike: up to 1,000 birds in 
NNP on 5/4 associated with' the fall of 
Red-backed Shrikes, BF 

Woodchat Shrike: an ad at Sio River, 
31/12/96, BF — this jazzy bird is a very 
uncommon migrant this far south, 
Kenya being right at the southeastern 
edge of its wintering range 

Eurasian Golden Oriole (A# 573): [post 
pres 26D], Kurungu, South Horr, 18/11/ 
96, KD, MB 



Breeding Records 



Many thanks go to all those who have sent in Nest Record Cards over the past 
year or so. There has been a great response to the appeal for breeding records (or 
there have been an unusually large number of birds breeding this year!) and we 
are having to order a new set of cards as the stock is basically gone! The new 
card will be slightly different to the last one, with small adjustments that should 
make it easier to complete. A total of 289 records have been submitted and 
accepted by 41 contributors — almost 100 records and 10 people more than for 
the previous six months. Of these, 257 were confirmed and 32 probable breeding 
records and in all cover 152 species, again, a tremendous 38 species more than 
previously. Those people who sent in breeding records are listed below — all 
those who sent in more than 10 deserve special congratulations, particularly 
Jeffrey Coburn and James Gathitu who both submitted an impressive number of 
cards. 



58 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



Nest record card contributors: 






Jeffrey Coburn 


69 


Bill Harvey 


8 


James Gathitu 


42 


Kimtai Korir 


8 


Shailesh Patel 


24 


Wayne Vos 


8 


Fleur Ng'weno 


21 


Japhet Mwok 


7 


Dome Brass 


20 


Sybil Sassoon 


6 


Neil Wiltshire 


20 


Patrick Gichuki 


6 


Francis N. Kiiru 


18 


Mercy Njeri Muiruri 


5 


Abdulaziz Abdalla 


17 


Bernard Mburu 


5 


Samuel N. Kimani 


17 


Geoffrey Irvine 


4 


David Mutinda 


15 


Paul Kabochi 


4 


Wednesday Birdwalk 


14 


Fidel Kyalo 


4 


Carol Kruger 


12 


Andrew Odhiambo 


4 


Onesmas Kahindi 


11 


Ann Gathitu 


4 


Peter Chirchir 


11 


Tirus Njuguna 


3 


Kuria Ndung'u 


11 


Charles Rugara 


3 


Titus Imboma 


10 


Lorna Depew 


3 


Peter Mwangi 


9 








Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



59 



Two cards were submitted by: Lech Iliszko, Martin Kahindi, Peter Karanja, 
Kevin Mulai, Joseph Mwaura, Reuben Nagaya, Peter Njoroge, Paul Wainaina, 
and Paul Mwaura, 

Single cards were submitted by: Melissa Barnett, Andy Bowen, Trels 
McGregor, Muchai Muchane, Wesley Near, David Ngala, Andrew Itote, Fraciah 
Kamau, Peter le Pelley, Stefan Rozwadowski, Rudnai, Peter Tsuma, Edward 
vanden Berghe, Narinda Heyer, Samson Wahuhia and Peter Mwangi, 

Blank Nest Record Cards (NRCs) are available upon request (see above). 

N.B. A small note to make concerning completing NRCs — if juveniles are 
observed being fed by an adults, please note down the number of juvenile birds 
involved under "young seen, Out nest" 

Breeding records of interest 



Common Ostrich (A# 1): [post conf 
88A] 2+ chicks with ads, along Emali- 
Loitokitok road, 19/1, FN 

Somali Ostrich (A# 1): [post conf 5 ID] 9 
chicks accompanying 2 ads, Lewa 
Downs, Isiolo, 20/10/96, FK 

Black-necked Grebe: 1 juv seen 
accompanying ads, Endashant Swamp, 
14/6, WGH — a species for which 
relatively few breeding records have 
been made in recent years. 

Cattle Egret (A# 30): [conf 88A] colony 
of c.350 nests with birds observed 
courting, nest-building and incubating, 
Emali town centre, 1/6, PN, LAB, PGG, 
MMs 

Little Egret (A# 35): [conf 75B] 6 nests, 
1 with downy young, Endashant 
Swamp, 14/6, WGH 

Hamerkop (A# 44): [prob 101C] freshly 
built nest over river, Salt Lick Game 
Sanctuary, Tsavo West, 10/6, AA 

Saddle-billed Stork: ad carrying nest 
material, NNP, 21/5, WMB — a species 
for which there are relatively few 
breeding records 



African Spoonbill: 8 nests with 
incubating ads, Endashant Swamp, 14/6, 
WGH 

Egyptian Goose (A# 64): [conf 88B] 2 
chicks accompanied by ad, Umani 
Springs Camp, Kibwezi, 12/6/96, KN 

Red-billed Teal (A# 76): [conf 51C] 9 
ducklings with ads, Lewa Downs, 
Isiolo, 6/9/96, FK 

Southern Pochard: nest with 4 eggs on 
islet, Endashant Swamp, 14/6, WGH — 
this represents the most northerly 
breeding for this species which is 
mostly a non-breeding visitor from 
southern Africa. 

African Cuckoo Hawk (A# 136): [conf 
63A] feeding young, Mountain Lodge, 
3/3, BF 

Mountain Buzzard (A# 116): [conf 
101 A] young (heard but not seen) being 
fed in nest, Mbololo Forest, Taita Hills, 
20-23/3, TI 

Palm-nut Vulture: on nest, Samburu 
River, 5/3, BF 

Tawny Eagle (A# 129): [conf 101C] 3 
young being fed by ad in nest on top of 



60 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



Acacia tortilis tree, Salt Lick Game 
Sanctuary, Tsavo West, 18/6, AA 

Verreaux's Eagle: adult sitting on nest in 
a Euphorbia, NNP, 20/4, AG, SG 

African Crowned Eagle (A# 122): single 
chick successfully fledged from nest in 
property adjacent to Giraffe Centre, 
Lang'ata, Nbi, Nov '96-Mar '97, PK — 
this is presumably the pair that used to 
breed in Ololua Forest, Karen, but 
which deserted due to disturbance; [conf 
101 A] young (heard but not seen) being 
fed in nest by ad, Ngangao Forest, Taita 
Hills, 20-23/2, TI 

Martial Eagle (A# 123): [conf 62A] 
single chick in nest and later seen 
fledged, Soysambu Game Sanctuary, L. 
Elmenteita, 23/4-2/6, PKa 

Stone Partridge (A# 176): [conf 51C] 2 
young with ads, Lewa Downs, Isiolo, 
20/10/96, FK 

Crested Francolin (A# 167): [conf 76C] 
2-4 chicks with ads, Game Ranching 
Co., Athi River, 3/4, WV & TM 

Common Moorhen (A# 201): [conf 
76A] ad with 3 chicks, Githumbwini 
Dam, Thika, 15/6, PLO 

Lesser Moorhen (A# 200): [conf 76A] 
ad with one chick, Githumbwini Dam, 
Thika, 15/6, PLO 

African Finfoot: female with 2 young, 
Hippo Pools, Nbi NP, 1-8/6, MM, WGH 
(reported by KWS ranger at Pools). 

Kori Bustard: young fledgling with ad, 
Game Ranching Ltd, Athi River, 12/4, 
TM — there are relatively few breeding 
records submitted for this bird, despite it 
being such an obvious species (Kenya's 
largest flying bird). 

Hartlaub's Bustard: nest with 2 eggs, 
Game Ranching Co., Athi River, 7-16/5, 
ST — this is apparently the first nest for 
this species to have been described. 



Black-winged Plover (A# 223): [conf 
49A] 2 downy chicks observed, Sergoit, 
Eldoret, 26/5, CK 

Whiskered Tern (A# 312): [conf 62D] 2 
recently fledged juvs at Githumbwini 
Dam, Thika, 28/6, OD 

Lemon Dove (A# 334): [conf 101 A] a 
recently fledged juv caught and ringed 
and another seen, Mbololo Forest, Taita 
Hills, 18/3, TI 

Ring-necked Dove (A# 328): [conf 88D] 
2 nests with 2 eggs each, Mbirikani 
centre, nr. Kimana, 28/5, CJ 

Hartlaub's Turaco (A# 358): [conf 
101 A] single juv being fed by ad, 
Ngangao Forest, Taita Hills, 20/2, TI 

Diederik Cuckoo (A# 374): [conf 74C] 
juv being fed by male Black-headed 
Weaver, Sekenani Gate, Masai Mara 
Game Reserve, 26/5, OK 

Montane Nightjar (398): [conf 62C] 2 
young successfully fledged, Murungaru, 
N. Kinangop, early July, FNj 

Lilac-breasted Roller: pair breeding of 
the race lord, Ramu, 23/4, BF, TS, JR 

Broad-billed Roller (A# 457): [conf 
101 A] juv begging for food from ad — 
following ad with much wing-shivering, 
Ngangao Forest, Taita Hills, 23/3, TI 

Nubian Woodpecker (A# 512): [conf 
76C] at least one young in nest-hole in 
Acacia xanthophloea, Game Ranching 
Ltd, Athi River, 15/2, WV 

Brown-backed Woodpecker (A# 523): 
[prob 63A] ad excavating nest-hole, 
above Meteorological Station, Naro 
Moru route, Mt Kenya NP, 21/5, DR 

Rufous-naped Lark ( A# 531): [conf 62C] 
nest with 2 young, Kirima, western edge 
of N. Kinangop, 14/3, SNK 

Pink-breasted Lark (A# 533): [prob 
88D] ad carrying nest material, 
Mbirikani, nr. Kimana, 29/5, CJ 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



61 



Red-capped Lark (A# 540): [post conf 
62C] nest with 2 young and 1 infertile 
egg, Kirima, western edge of N. 
Kinangop, 25/5-7/6, SNK 

Fischer's Sparrow-Lark (A# 545): [conf 
88D] 2 nests with 2 eggs each, 
Mbirikani (Makutano), 28/5, CJ 

Rock Martin (A# 560): [conf 74C] 2 
young being fed in nest, Sekenani Gate, 
Masai Mara, 10-13/6, OK 

Malindi Pipit: nest with 2 young, c.l 
week old, and ad feeding fledged juv, 
north bank of Sabaki River mouth; 
another ad feeding fledged juv, L. 
Chemchem, Malindi, 6/1, DN, JS 

White-browed Robin-Chat (A# 606): 
[conf 74B] juv being fed by ad, Narok 
Boys High School, Narok, 25/5, OK 

Taita Thrush (A# 678 note — was 
considered conspecific with Olive 
Thrush): [post conf 101 A] single juv 
caught and ringed, Mugambonyi 14/3, 
and 2 being fed by ads, Mbololo Forest, 
Taita Hills, 4/4, TI 

African Grey Flycatcher (A# 793): 
[conf 51C] ad feeding young, Lewa 
Downs, Isiolo,l/2, KM 

Wing-snapping Cisticola (A# 717): 
[conf 76C] nest with 2 young and 1 
infertile egg, Kirima, western edge of N. 
Kinangop, 14/5-6/6, SNK 

Bar-throated Apalis (A# 753): [conf 
101 A] juvs heard in nest and being fed 
by ad, Ngangao Forest, Taita Hills, 17- 
19/2, TI — this is the first confirmed 
breeding record for this species in 
Kenya, this race of which is endemic to 
the Taita Hills (and considered by some 
to be a full species in its own right) 

Northern Crombec (A# 712): [prob 
5 IB] ad actively building nest, Shaba 
NR, Isiolo, 4/4, CJ 



Red-faced Crombec (A# 771): [conf 
88D] nest with ad incubating eggs, 
Oloorsikitok hill, Mbirikani, 28/5, CJ 

Black-and-white Flycatcher (A# 794): 
[conf 52C] male and female 
photographed on nest, near Kampi ya 
Nyati, Meru NP, 8/1, PH — this is the 
first breeding record for this rare species 
for over 30 years * 

Black-throated Wattle-eye: ad male 
feeding juv, Windsor Golf & Country 
Club, Nbi, 15/5, KN — a relatively 
local & uncommon species for which 
few breeding records are submitted 

House Sparrow (A# 992): [conf 75B] ad 
carrying food into nest from which 
young heard, Shan Cinema, Ngara, Nbi, 
6/2, PGG; ad feeding 2 juvs out of nest, 
Githurai Cable, Ruiru, 1-5/5, OK; single 
juv being fed by ad, South B, Nbi, 7/6, 
SP — this introduced species has now 
been recorded in several place around 
Nairobi, though these are the first 
submitted breeding records 

Grey-headed Sparrow (A# 990): [post 
conf 88D] ads carrying food into nest 
hole and sound of young birds in nest, 
roof of 'Barcelona Bar', Mbirikani 
(Makutano) centre, nr. Kimana, 26/5, CJ 

White-headed Buffalo-Weaver (A# 
1004): [prob 88D1 ad carrying nesting 
material, Mbirikani (Makutano) centre, 
nr. Kimana, 30/5, PGG 

Red-billed Buffalo-Weaver (A# 1003): 
[prob 10 1C] several nests together "in 
use", Salt Lick Game Sanctuary, Tsavo 
West, 26/5, AA 

Grosbeak Weaver (A# 970): [prob 
101 A] nest "in use", Ziwani Tented 
Camp, Tsavo West NP, 28/5, AA 

Jackson's Golden-backed Weaver (A# 
950): [conf 49D] colony of c. 20 nests 



62 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



in a variety of breeding stages — ads 
incubating, feeding young, between 
Emening and Radad, Baringo road, 18/ 
9/96, LI, MRz 

Vitelline Masked Weaver (A# 954): 
[prob 10 1C] nest "in use" on Balanites 
tree, Salt Lick Game Sanctuary, Tsavo 
West, 20/5, A A 

Lesser Masked Weaver (A# 953): [prob 
10 1C] nest "in use", Salt Lick Game 
Sanctuary, Tsavo West, 20/5, AA 

Speke's Weaver (A# 942): [prob 88D] 
male nest-building and displaying to 2-3 
females, lone Acacia xanthophloea tree, 
01 Enkijape primary school, Mbirikani 
(Makutano) centre, nr. Kimana, 26/5, CJ 
— an unusual record being at relatively 
low-altitude and in a hot and dry area 

Black-headed Weaver (A# 940): [conf 
74C] ad male feeding juv Diederik 
Cuckoo, Sekenani Gate, Masai Mara 
NR, 26/5, OK 

Chestnut Weaver;(A# 956): [prob 101C] 
cluster of nests "in use", Salt Lick Game 
Sanctuary, Tsavo West, 20/5, A A 

Red-headed Weaver (A# 969): [prob 
61 A] nest-building activities, Jan-May 
& Sept '96, Homa Lime, Koru, nr. 
Kisumu, NW - 

Cardinal Quelea (A# 988): [prob 101C] 
male in breeding plumage displaying 
and singing, Salt Lick Game Sanctuary, 
Tsavo West, 20/5, A A 

Pin-tailed Whydah (A# 1032): [prob 
101C] ] male singing whilst circling and 
hovering over a female, Salt Lick Game 
Sanctuary, Tsavo West, 20/5, A A 

Yellow-crowned Canary (A# 1053): 
[post conf 62C] nest with 3 young, 
Kirima, western edge of N. Kinangop, 
27/6, SNK 

Somali Golden-breasted Bunting (A# 
1051): [conf 88D] nest with 3 eggs, 



Oloorsikitok hill, Mbirikani (Makutano) 
centre, nr. Kimana, 28/5, CJ 

Abbreviations 

imm - immature; L. - Lake; NMK - 
National Museums of Kenya; Nbi - 
Nairobi; NP - National Park; NNP - 
Nairobi National Park; NR - National 
Reserve; Ngulia SL - Ngulia Safari 
Lodge 

Contributors 

AA, Abdulaziz Abdalla . 
MB, Melissa Barnett 
KB, Kimbo Beakbane 
LAB, Leon Bennun 

WMB, EANHS Weds, morning birdwalk 
RB, Richard Bishop 

AB, Andy Bo wen 
TC, Tortilis Camp 
ND, Neil Davidson 
KD, Kristin Davis 

OD, Ornithology Department staff 

BF, Brian Finch 

DF, David Fisher 

CF, Chris Flatt 

C&RF, Colin & Rocky Francombe 

IF, Ian Francombe 

GF, Gunhild Frandsen 

JWG, James Wainaina 

PGG, Patrick Gichuki 

SG, Sue Giddings 

AG, Ann Goss 

T&MG, T & M Graham 

RDG, Richard Gregory 

NbiRG, Nairobi Ringing Group 

WGH, Bill Harvey 

PH, Peter Headland 

HH, Harold Henry 

LI, Lech Iliszko 

TI, Titus Imboma 

G&DI, Geoffrey & Dorothy Irvine 

CJ, Colin Jackson 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



63 



JJ, Jeffrey James 
ChJ, Chris Jameson 
PKa, Paul Kabochi 
OK, Onesemas Kahindi 
PK, Peter Karanja 
DK, Dan Kennedy 
SNK, Samuel N. Kimani 
KDK, Korir Kimtai 
WK, Willington Kombe 
CK, Carol Kruger 
FK, Kidel Kyalo 
TL, Thomas Lehmberg 
JAL, Jeremy Lindsell 
MM, Mark Mallalieu 
MMs, Maurus Msuha 
MMu, M. Muller 
TM, Trels McGregor 
KM, Kevin Mulai 
OM, Ogeto Mwebi 
JM, Japheth Mwok 
KN, Kuria Ndung'u 
DN, David Ngala 
GTN, George Ngigi 
FN, Fleur Ng'weno 



PN, Peter Njoroge 

FNj, Francis Njuguna 

EO, Eric Omondi 

PLO, EANHS 'Pot Luck' Outing 

SP, Shailesh Patel 

MP, Mike Potter 

MR, Marlene Reid 

MRz, Magdalena Remisiewicz 

JR, Jamie Roberts 

AS, Alfred" Simiyu 

DR, Dave Richards 

RRo, Richard Roberts 

RR, Roger Rose 

SS, Sybil Sassoon 

JS, Joe Schwarz 

TS, Terry Stevenson 

ST, Simon Thomsett 

DAT, Don Turner 

MV, Munir Virani 

WV, Wayne Vos 

NW, Neil Willshire 

JW, Janet Wood 

J&JW, Jeff & Jessica Worden. 



Erratum 

In Kenya Birds vol. 5(2) a loose A4 sheet was included showing the Quarter 
Square Degree numbers for the Bird Atlas of Kenya. On the map, Embu town is 
shown as being located in QSD 63D; it should be shown in 63C. 



Sponsors of Kenya Birds 

Many thanks to the following sponsor subscribers for their support of Kenya 
Birds: K. Beakbane, B. Childress, J. Coburn, P. Colbert, I. K. Coldwell, S. 
Deverell, G. Eldridge, H. Elkins, T. Evans, P. J. Frere, A. Goss, J. F. Graham, J. 
W. Graham, A. R. Gregory, D. Griffin, H. Grossmann, J. Hartley, P. R. Hechle, 
G. C. & D. Irvine, T. F. James, J. Kendall, C. Kruger, P. & M. Lincoln-Gordon, 
M. G. Lissimore, I. J. P. Loefler, C. Mills, T. Lehmberg, M. Mallalieu, T. 
Pallister, D. Pomeroy, E. Sadd, T. Stevenson, R. E. Sutherland, L. Watson, N. 
Willsher, M. W. Woodcock. 



64 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

Notes 

Birds of prey at Tudor Creek, Mombasa 

I moved to a house on Tudor Creek some three years ago. Coming from a flat in 
the Old Town with a beautiful view over the harbour entrance and English Point, 

1 was a bit nervous as to how I would like my new 'view'. 'Lakini', 
notwithstanding my equally lovely outlook, it has turned out to be a 
marvellously productive bird area. I am particularly impressed with the birds of 
prey, some resident but many migratory. An Ayres's Eagle has been riding the 
thermals of the creek every afternoon around 3 pm for all the three seasons I 
have been here. He arrives about October and leaves mid-March. I am sure it is 
the same bird, the exact same morph and markings, usually content to ride 
thermals but occasionally descending with wings folded back to his tail, chasing 
some tasty little birds. He always descends into the same clump of mangroves 
when he gets tired of riding high — probably his roosting place. This year we 
had two Peregrine Falcons. Their main object seemed to be to catch termites and 
they objected strongly to the two African Fish Eagles which fly over from the 
north side. One Sunday I watched the fish eagles playing, touching talons, 
calling, their haunting tune, being bombarded by the Peregrines while a small 
flock of Woolly-necked Storks coasted overhead — a veritable circus. The 
garden next but one to me is full of indigenous trees and over Christmas a pair 
of Great Sparrowhawks nested. I saw both male and female and heard lots of 
crying which was obviously the young but never, despite much craning, walking 
under the trees and getting bitten to death by mosquitoes, did I ever see either 
the nest site or the young, so thick is the canopy (and so may it long remain). It 
was very gratifying to see the Indian House Crow skeletons lying under the 
sparrowhawks' perching place. The family seems to have separated now, only 
the male crosses from the large mango tree to his roosting place each evening. A 
pair of Lizard Buzzards are now flashing in and out of the same area. I have 
seen Little Sparrowhawk and African Goshawk in the same trees, but fleetingly. 

2 May 1997 brought some rather special visitors. It had been raining for 72 
hours non-stop, I had arrived from Nairobi the previous day to find Mombasa 
flooded, the skies leaden. Imagine my joy when I went to the verandah early in 
the morning to find a small flock of Sooty Falcons feeding on the termites. So 
incredible was their flight — swooping and catching the insects, consuming 
them almost non-stop — that I almost felt sorry for the poor old crows trying to 
emulate them, having to stop for a breather in the palm tree after every dudu. As 
it was so dark, these crepuscular feeders stayed active nearly all day, coming so 
close to my verandah that I could see their yellow eye ring. During the morning 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 65 

a flock of Roseate Terns joined in the feast together with the last of this year's 
Barn Swallows. It is fairly quiet at the moment but who knows what tomorrow 
will bring? — Marlene Reid, P O Box P O Box 80429, Mombasa 

Binding along Nairobi streets 

I would like to share some of the delights of bird-spotting near my office 
situated in the City Centre, whose streets are better known for thieves than birds. 
The office is on the fourth floor of Embassy House, along Harambee Avenue.^ 
The locality is endowed with palms, fruit-bearing and Acacia trees, and has 
land-mark buildings, including Harambee House, the Kenya Police 
Headquarters, Kenyatta International Conference Centre, the Parliament, Sheria 
House and the Holy Family Basilica. 

Pied Crows and Superb Starlings patronise the roofs of most buildings. They 
stand, in a line sun-basking in the mornings and evenings. Crows and starlings 
jointly mob Black Kites; the alliance has proved effective in expelling a pair 
each of Peregrine Falcons and Harrier Hawks from the area. 

Little Swifts swirl noisily in hundreds from dawn to dusk. The African Rock 
Martin makes seasonal appearances. The yellow-barked acacia trees in the 
gardens of KICC attract the chatty White-browed Sparrow Weavers; Brown 
Parisomas roam the flat-topped canopy, and Yellow-breasted Apalis visits 
occasionally. White-bellied Tits forage in the mid-stratum. Superb and Greater 
Blue-eared Starlings feed on the lawns below, where Bronze Mannikin and Red- 
billed Firefinch can be found too. Early in the morning, Silvery-cheeked 
Hornbill and Hadada Ibis can be found in the tipuana tippu trees between 
Harambee and Sheria Houses. 

Many birds fly overhead too. Flocks of Great White Pelicans and Marabou 
Storks can be seen high in the southern sky riding on the thermal currents; 
Yellow-billed Stork, Crowned Plover, Sacred Ibis, Crowned Crane, Black- 
headed and Grey Heron fly past hastily in the morning, probably to suitable 
haunts in the northern outskirts, before the 'mad' city wakes up. Sometimes the 
plovers make short stops in the grassy compound of KICC. At least once a week, 
Giant Kingfisher darts, quacking loudly, across the sky. The bird calls frequently 
from the recreational man-made dam at Uhuru Park. I think more birds travel at 
night because twice I have found dead male Harlequin Quail outside Nairobi 
Cinema. 

The President's bodyguards are always excited by the fishing techniques of 
Pied Kingfisher in the pond at the entrance of the president's office at Harambee 
House. In 1995, a pair of Hamerkop began nesting on a tree near the same pond. 
Their effort was thwarted by gardeners who became concerned by the increasing 



66 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



mass of twigs and 
branches that made 
the vicinity of the 
most honourable of- 
fice in Kenya look 
'untidy'. Neverthe- 
less, the pair still 
hunts there today 
peacefully. 

While walking 
along City Hall Way, 
it's hard to miss the 
plaintive calls of 
Klaas's and Diederik 
Cuckoos and the Red- 
eyed Dove in the thick 
foliage of trees around 
Garden Square restau- 
rant. Feral Pigeons 
and Red-winged Star- 
lings dominate the 
Holy Family Basilica 
in the neighbourhood. 
Pied Wagtails like 
running along the con- 
crete wall of the res- 
taurant. 

Outside Embassy 
House, Paradise Fly- 
catchers catch insects 
near the main door- 
way. Grey-headed and 
House Sparrows are 
common in the lane. 
Laughing Doves enjoy 
walking on the pave- 
ments alongside pe- 
destrians. The nearby garbage dump attracts Superb Starling, Rufous Sparrow, 
Olive Thrush and Common Bulbul. A pair of Fiscal Shrikes seems to like perch- 
ing in the middle of the round-about between Parliament and Harambee Avenue. 




White-headed Mousebird — Edwin Selempo 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 67 

The jacaranda tree in the Embassy House car park is also a favourite perch for 
Streaky Seadeaters and Common Bulbuls. In March 1997, the most unexpected 
visitor, a Black-headed Oriole, perched on the tree as well. 

When trees and plants in the gardens are in flower, Variable and Bronze 
Sunbirds move in: only once did I see Scarlet-chested Sunbird. 

Bird-spotting in this part of the City is really delightful! — Onesmas Kahindi, 
P O Box 34730, Nairobi 

Lekking bustards? 

On 7 December 1997, about 10 km south of Kajiado town on the Namanga road, 
I saw eight adult Kori Bustards on the west side of the road, and on the east side 
a single adult. All were close together on open grass in the Acacia woodland in 
the area; but there may have been others that I missed, as I was in a matatu 
which was moving hastily! There was no obvious reason for this aggregation 
(such as an outbreak of armyworm or grasshoppers as a food supply), but the 
area was so green that the rains may have stimulated them to come together for 
mating purposes — as a 'lek'. I have seen this group behaviour before, years 
ago, on the Kapiti plains, and Birds of Africa (vol. 2) cites the late Leslie Brown 
as mentioning the birds gathering in particular areas to display. — Charles 
Dewhurst, Ella Nore House, West Wittering, Chichester, West Sussex, PO20 
8AN, UK. 

Common Button-quail breeding in Nairobi National Park 

Although Common Button-quail Turnix sylvatica is locally common in dry and 
moist grassland and other suitable habitat in Kenya, according to the Annotated 
Checklist of the Birds of Nairobi including Nairobi National Park (W. Harvey 
(ed.), 1997) the only record for Nairobi National Park is of a single bird in 
December 1979. 

I visited Nairobi National Park with my family on the morning of 16 
November 1997. At 08:30 h, whilst driving through the White Grass Ridge area, 
I stopped the car to identify a small bird by the roadside. I was able to observe it 
through Zeiss 7 x 42 binoculars at 2 m range and to identify it as an adult 
Common Button-quail. The bird flew briefly for 1-2 m but remained in view in 
grass by the roadside, gradually moving back towards the road. It was clearly 
reluctant to leave the area. I then noticed three tiny chicks approaching the adult. 
I photographed the adult with two of the chicks, and the adult alone, with a 300 
mm lens, all at very close range. Copies of two of the photographs have been 
sent to the Bird Committee of the East Africa Natural History Society. The birds 
were in view for about three minutes before they disappeared into the grass. — 
Mark Mallalieu, P O Box 30465, Nairobi. 



68 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

Two Nairobi cuckoo records 

Klaas's Cuckoo, 26 May 1997, Ololua Ridge 

On my usual afternoon day walk at the end of Ololua Ridge, Karen, my attention 
was drawn by a bird call I did not recognize I eventually located a juvenile 
Klaas's Cuckoo in the lower branches of an arrow-poison tree {Acokanthera 
schimperi) being fed by an adult male of the same species. The adult male called 
with a quiet 'whispy' note each time it brought a caterpillar (four times in the 5 
minutes it was observed). The juvenile flew to a different branch each time. The 
male then gave the usual Klaas's Cuckoo call and flew off to bring another 
caterpillar. 

Black Cuckoo, 30 June 97, Ololua Ridge 

A juvenile Black Cuckoo was seen and heard calling from the top branches of a 
tall Cassia tree at the edge of the garden next to Ololua Forest. An answering 
call was heard in the distance. An adult was seen and heard in the same tree at 
the beginning of the rains in April this year and heard calling many times from 
surrounding trees and forest since, mostly on wet days. According to The Birds 
of Kenya and Northern Tanzania the breeding habits of this bird are not clear. In 
the six years living in this house I have seen (rarely) and heard (often) this bird, 
near the house, nearly always in wet periods. — Janet Wood, P O Box 24615, 
Nairobi. 

[Editors' note: The Klaas's Cuckoo sighting shows just how little we know 
about this fascinating group of brood-parasitic birds. Adult cuckoos are 
'supposed' not to look after their young, but leave them entirely in the care of 
the foster parents. Do any other readers have records of cuckoos feeding 
juveniles?] 

Little Egret feeding on Omena in Lake Victoria 

Little Egrets normally feed in shallow water, either by standing still and waiting 
for prey to appear or by walking through the water snapping at prey. 

Around the shores of Lake Victoria in Kenya, I have often observed Little 
Egrets flying low or hovering over the water with legs dangling. When food is 
sighted they stretch down and pick it up with their bill. 

The food always appears to be small dead fish Engraulicypris argenteus — 
locally called Omena — which are found floating on the surface of the lake each 
morning. At night the Lake Victoria fishermen lure the Omena into their nets by 
suspending kerosene lamps above the lake's surface from their boats. Working at 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 69 

night in very difficult conditions, the fishermen lose many of the tiny fish over 
the side of the fishing canoes. 

This foraging behaviour of the egrets has been reported from Luanda 
Harbour, Angola (see Birds of Africa, vol. 1), where there are no other birds 
competing for the fish. By contrast in Lake Victoria the Little Egrets face stiff 
competition from Black Kites and occasionally Hamerkops, which also feed by 
snatching the dead Omena from the water's surface. — Dave Richards, P O Box 
24545, Nairobi. 

A week from the note-book of a Rift Valley birder... 

LOLDIA FARM, north-west of Lake Naivasha 

20 May 1997 

White-browed Coucal — killed and carried off a Speckled Mousebird. This is a 
behaviour I have never seen before. 

Grey Hornbill — males observed carrying food to two separate nest holes. 

Red-billed Oxpecker — frequenting an old woodpecker's nest, carrying food. 

We are losing our Malachite Kingfishers — at least five birds have been killed 
flying into one of our cottage windows, confusing the panes to be a way 
through. 

Blue-naped Mousebirds are still around in plenty, as are a few Gull-billed Terns. 

House Sparrow — This bird has colonised most of Naivasha town using the 
ventilation holes in buildings; also Gilgil and some centres in Naivasha North 
Lake. 

My mysterious puff-backs are back with their loud commotion — presumably 
Black-backed Puffback Dryoscopus cubla and Northern Puffback D. 
gambensis. Both been recorded nesting here. 

21 May 

Cuckoos — Black, Red-chested, Diederik, Klaas's — are all busy calling, here 
and in Lake Nakuru Park as well. 

Francolins are also much in evidence at the moment, the Coqui in more open 
areas and Hildebrandt's in wooded places, along with a species as yet 
unidentified which is more often heard than seen in bush and rocky outcrops. 
Last month, all three species were also heard and seen in North Kinangop far 
from the edge of the forest — hearing the Coqui was especially interesting and 
unexpected over there. 



70 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

25 May 

African Green Pigeon — juvenile bird seen in nest and being fed by an adult. 

— James Wainaina, P O Box 695, Naivasha 

Seven Grey Parrots in Kakamega 

From vol. 5(1) of Kenya Birds we gather that the Grey Parrot has not been 
reported very often from Kakamega Forest for some years. 

On the morning of 9 July 1997 at about 06:30, we were alerted by parrot-like 
calling while watching birds just 300 m down the Ikuywa road beyond the 
Rondo Retreat Centre. A moment later, we glimpsed a small group not 
exceeding five in number of unmistakeable big parrot-like birds apparently 
circling, followed by another pair. They did not reappear while I was watching. 
However, the following morning at the same time I was privileged to hear the 
same calling and to see, fully illuminated by the rising sun, a pair of Grey 
Parrots feeding on the flowering shoots of a tall Acrocarpus-Yike tree to which I 
had been drawn by seeing it being fed on by literally dozens, if not hundreds, of 
small sunbirds the day before. 

We hope you are receiving many more reports of this bird and that ours is not 
just an isolated report. — Geoffrey and Dorothy Irvine, P O Box 1356, Naivasha 

[Editors ' note: There, have indeed been subsequent reports of Grey Parrots from 
Kakamega, up to a maximum of seven birds. Perhaps the parrots are back, at 
least for the time being?] 

Road of doom 

Driving between Narok town and Mai-Mahiu trading centre can be a horrifying 
episode for a birder, or any naturalist for that matter. Early in the morning of 19 
July 1997, I counted 33 dead Dusky Nightjars crashed by cars the previous 
night. I don't know if it's the bright moon that attracted the birds to the road, 
leading to the holocaust. I am told that nightjars land on tarmac roads at night 
after it rains, but no rain had fallen in the area recently. 

It is likely that the birds died due to driver carelessness if other victims found 
along the road can serve as indicators. Just past Narok town on the same night, I 
found a half-grown male Leopard, crushed. Further ahead, I encountered an 
African Hare, Dik-dik and Ratel that had met the same fate. Previously I have 
found vultures, hornbills, larks, Spotted Hyaena, Aardwolf, Thomson's Gazelle, 
Grant's Gazelle, Common Zebra and Topi killed by vehicles. There is heavy 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 71 

traffic along this road of lorries and medium-size transport vehicles which 
operate mostly at night. 

The road traverses a wildlife-rich area. It was repaired recently but, 
surprisingly, there is no traffic road sign warning drivers about the high number 
of animals moving. This road is a serious animal hazard. 

I wonder how many nightjars perish nightly, and what are the implications? 
— Onesmas Kahindi, P O Box 34730, Nairobi 

Ross's Turaco in Murang'a? 

A friend visited Murang'a town on business early in June 1997 and described 
the following incident. 

Standing outside the DO's office, beneath an ancient, huge fig tree, his 
attention was drawn by an irritating cacophony: a loud 'hraak, hraak' or 'rrrah, 
rrrah' noise. Looking up to locate the source of the racket, he saw what he 
described as a largeish bird, all dark blue- or purplish-black in colour, with a 
bright yellow beak, yellow 'face', reddish crest or crown and dark feet. Looking 
more closely, he saw three other, similar birds perched on other branches of the 
tree and calling back and forth to each other. 

My friend was curious to know if the bird was anything special, as they had 
never seen anything like it before. Evidently the bird was a turaco, and at first I 
assumed it must be Hartlaub's (people have been known to confuse this species 
for Ross's). However, this observer (a total non-birder!) was adamant that the 
bird was bluish- or purplish-black in colour and not greenish, and was very sure 
of the yellow beak and 'face' as well as the red crest or crown. Undoubtedly, 
what was being described was Ross's Turaco! 

Ross's Turaco, though said to wander to open areas with scattered trees, has 
never been reported so far east before. Has anyone else seen these birds in 
central Kenya? — Jean Githaiga, P O Box 40658, Nairobi. 

Caring for sick and injured raptors 

Handling and holding of raptors is strictly controlled by the Wildlife 
(Management and Conservation) Act. Only competent organizations and 
individuals are permitted to handle and hold raptors. Such organizations include, 
for example, the Ornithology Department of the National Museums of Kenya 
(NMK), Kenya Wildlife Service and specific University departments. 
Increasingly, concerned members of the public are finding raptors that require 
immediate rescue. Rushed action, however well intentioned, may in fact 
endanger the bird. Any rescue attempt should therefore be warranted by the 



72 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

health status of the bird. If the bird stands a chance of survival without 
intervention, it is usually better off left in the wild. 

Unless injured or sick, raptors (with the exception of young nestlings) will 
not allow close human approach without attempting to escape. The ability to 
escape is a good indicator of a bird's health status. However, ability to flee does 
not invariably mean that the bird does not need help. It can, though, help one to 
choose between rescue, further observation, or non-intervention. Other 
indications that a bird is sick or injured include apparent wounds and tissue 
inflammations, fluffed feathers, slow inhalation and fast exhalation, partially or 
wholly closed eyes, drooping wing(s), asymmetrical posture while perched, and 
perching in atypical places for a species (e.g. a Peregrine Falcon perching on the 
ground for long periods). The bird may also appear quiet and even unresponsive. 

If rescue is deemed necessary, wrap the casualty in a towel/jumper with 
minimum fuss. Covering the bird's head (without suffocating it!) will quieten it. 
Bear in mind that the bird is more frightened than you are and likely to strike. 
Watch out for the talons; they can be highly dangerous. As soon as possible put 
the bird in a ventilated box large enough to allow it to stand comfortably. It 
should be placed somewhere warm^approximately 21°C), in semi-darkness, and 
undisturbed. DESIST FROM DISPLAYING THE BIRD TO FRIENDS OR 
FAMILY MEMBERS! Unnecessary stress may kill a critically sick or injured 
bird. 

Bleeding requires quick attention. It can be stemmed by gentle compression 
with a linger for 5-10 minutes, or by adhesive tape. As a short-term measure, 
fractured wings should be wrapped snugly against the body in the natural folded 
position. If they are left hanging, further tissue damage may occur. Before taping 
the wing to the body, bandage the wing with adhesive tape — the tape should 
take the shape of a figure 8 around the wing. You then wrap the tape around the 
bird's body, going under the uninjured wing and avoiding the legs and cloaca. 

Concussions occur often in raptors through collisions. Keeping the bird quiet 
and warm may work fairly well, especially if expert help is unavailable. 
Occasionally, a bird is very thin and weak due to malnutrition. Some food for a 
week or so in a secure and warm environment will usually heal the bird. 

Overzealous rescuers sometimes pick up young birds which are better off left 
with their parents. First flights by fledglings are usually clumsy. They often 
crash-land with little damage done. Unless one is sure that the young bird is 
injured, it should be left in the wild. Watch out for pre-adult plumage coloration 
as well. Observed aggression between a young bird and a territorial pair may 
simply be the natural process of terminating dependence and therefore needs no 
'rescue'. 

In all cases and circumstances, it is important that you consult professional 
help as soon as possible. The bird should be held for as short a duration as is 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 73 

possible and practical. The Department of Ornithology (NMK) will advise you 
on what action to take if you have a rescued raptor. Veterinary officers may also 
be able to assist with general injuries such as fractures and bleeding wounds. — 
Benard Mburu Chege, P O Box 40658, Nairobi 

Temminck's Coursers overshadow Malindi Pipits 

On Saturday 28 February 1998, the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Guides, the North 
Coast KWS Partnership Officer and the Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Information and 
Education Officer headed out to Sabaki River mouth on a birding trip. 

It was a bright hot day even in the early hours of the morning, and with the 
tide on the way out we decided to bird in the scrub and dune area before hitting 
the river mouth itself. We had hardly reached the open area when a number of 
pipits started fluttering and running in the short grass ahead of us. David Ngala, 
a veteran of this area, was confident in affirming that what we saw was a 
Malindi Pipit, but those less experienced among us were forced to do some 
painstaking systematic observation. Leg colour seemed to change with the light 
and the pipits insisted on showing their backs rather than breasts where we 
hoped to see the distinctive streaking extending down the flanks. They all had 
yellow at the base of the mandible, and this seemed more obvious when they 
opened their mouths. 

Thus in this fashion we continued checking out each pipit until we saw both 
the Grassland and Malindi and could recognise some of the differences clearly. 
Our Grassland Pipits were much lighter brown in colour, and the streaking was 
on the chest only. David also instructed us to note that the Grassland only had a 
yellowish base to the mandible whereas the Malindi Pipits he was seeing had 
very distinct bright yellow bills. It was as we were observing what we had 
identified as a Malindi Pipit standing tall on a little hillock with some food in its 
mouth that a sudden cry went up as someone spotted something quite different . 
We swung round in time to see some rufous heads fringed with a distinctive 
white 'V moving through the grass. They moved fairly rapidly, blending with 
the background of dry grasses and low scrub, such that they were difficult to 
pick out again immediately. We all turned to David and were surprised to see 
him looking slightly puzzled but extremely excited as this was something he was 
not familiar with. As the group of birds moved through the grass between the 
bushes, pecking at the ground with such force they sent up small showers of 
sand, they afforded us clear views of their underbellies with a distinct black 
patch contrasting with the white behind. Strutting through the grass, cocking 
their heads to one side, they displayed a pale rufous head, a white 'V lined with 
black extending from their eyes, a chestnut-brown back and pale throat, 



74 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

becoming rufous/grey on the chest. Their legs appeared fairly pale and as they 
flew in low flaps and glides, the complete dark underwing contrasted with the 
two-tone black and brown upper wing. 

We must have studied them from a distance of between 15 and 20 m for 
about 15 minutes. Then as we progressed on towards the swampy reed pools 
they ran along in front of us without taking to the wing until they reached the 
pools themselves. Their flight was short and low with only a few flaps and 
extended glides. 

Having concluded that we had seen five Temminck's Coursers we were 
interested to learn from Zimmerman, Turner and Pearson, Birds of Kenya and 
northern Tanzania, that they have not been sighted in this vicinity before. The 
reference to them coming as far as the Tana River Delta following periods of 
heavy rain, however, did make sense as the rainfall from May 1997 to January 
1998 has been exceptional all over the country. 

For all of the ASF Guides, the Temmick's Courser had given them a new 
LIFE bird which pleased David Ngala especially, as he had rather thought his 
home patch had few surprises to offer. 

Guides in the group included Ferdinand Maitha, Rashid Malibe, Mwachira, 
Albert Mwamure, David Ngala, Mathias Ngonyo, Asha Noor and Jimmy 
Shomie, with Tansy Bliss and Jirmo Tuqa. — Tansy Bliss with Arabuko-Sokoke 
Forest Guides, P O Box 383, Watamu 

A surprise visitor: Bar-tailed Trogon in the Arboretum 

Birdwatchers in the Nairobi area have been taking part in Wednesday Morning 
Birdwalks for more than 25 years! Gathering at the National Museum, Nairobi, 
every Wednesday before 9:00, they choose a site and spend the morning there, 
enjoying the birds, the plants and the wildlife. 

On 2 July 1997, there were not enough cars to transport all the birdwatchers, 
so the groups met inside the main entrance, and turned to the right, through a 
path winding down among the trees. 

A sharp-eyed participant spotted a large, red and green bird. A trogon! Seeing 
a trogon is the high point of walk through a forest. It is a beautiful bird, about 
the size of a dove, with a long tail. The back is bright iridescent green, and the 
male's front is brilliant red. Despite its large size and striking colours, it is often 
difficult to spot among the green leaves of the forest. 

The Narina Trogon is resident of the Nairobi forests, but it had been several 
years since one had been recorded in the Aboretum. So it was an exciting 
moment. The group spent about five minutes making sure that everyone saw the 
special bird as if flitted among the branches. 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 75 

The trogon then sat on a branch nearby, facing us, and began to preen, 
cleaning and mounting its feathers. We could see every detail. And so we 
noticed that its tail, from below, was barred with fine black bars on a white 
background. It wasn't a Narina Trogon, whose tail is smooth white below — it 
was a Bar-tailed Trogon! 

We were amazed. The Bar-tailed Trogon is a bird of the highland forest. In 
Kenya, it occurs alongside the Narina Trogon only in Kakamega Forest. Bar- 
tailed Trogon had been recorded in the Nairobi forests some fifty years ago, but 
none had been seen within the city limits since at least 1972. 

Yet there it was. The group noticed that the head of the Bar-tailed Trogon was 
darker than Narina's and its chest bluer. The bird had less 'fancy eye make-up' 
than its commoner cousin. And the tail was barred. 

Why was it in the Arboretum? It may have migrated from the highland forest 
in search of food during the cold season. Food was abundant in the Arboretum 
that day; we kicked up clouds of small brown moths as we walked through the 
grass. A number of birds migrate from the highlands to the Nairobi area during 
the cold months. In particular, Bronze-naped, and sometime Olive, Pigeons 
come to the Arboretum in July and August, then return to their highland homes. 

The Bar-tailed Trogon did not stay, but it made that Wednesday Morning 
Birdwalk a very special day! — Fleur Ng'weno, P O Box 42271, Nairobi 

Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix at Mida Creek 

At around 10:00 on 11 March 1997, having been watching waterbirds from the 
inland, Mida village side of Mida Creek together with Wellington Kombe of the 
Arabuko-Sokoke Forest Guides, I noticed a Wood Warbler moving through the 
mangrove bushes in company with numerous Willow Warblers. In fact, the 
mangroves fringing the creek were alive with small birds, mostly Willow 
Warblers, many of them in song. As we walked back towards the car, a bright 
warbler with a brilliant white belly caught my attention. A view in the binoculars 
confirmed my suspicion that it was a Wood Warbler. I pointed it out to 
Wellington and we both watched it for several minutes from about 6 m away 
(with Bausch & Lomb 10 x 42 binoculars in my case) as it moved through the 
mangroves and finally out of sight. It was a fairly large Phylloscopus, clearly a 
little larger than the accompanying Willow Warblers. Upperparts were a bright 
green, belly a clean white, with the throat and breast sulphur yellow. Wings 
relatively long with pale green edging. Head and face patterned as in most 
Phylloscopus with obvious yellow supercilium and dark eye. Legs appeared 
pinkish. Its behaviour was much like the Willow Warblers as it moved through 
the branches feeding, though it was chased by individual Willow Warblers on 
two occasions. 



76 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

While I thought it was unusual to see a Wood Warbler on the coast I didn't at 
the time realise how rare it was. The only obvious confusion species (to me) 
seemed to be Green-capped Eromomela, an African species I have not seen. 
However, although the illustration in Birds of Kenya and northern Tanzania 
(Zimmerman et ai, 1996) looks quite like a Wood Warbler, the text states that 
the coastal race has a pale yellow belly, thus excluding it in my view. The jizz of 
the bird I saw was perfect for Wood Warbler and unlike the Yellow-bellied 
Eromomela I saw at Lake Baringo. No other Phylloscopus has the distinctive 
combination of striking white belly and bright sulphur throat. — Richard 
Gregory, British Trust for Ornithology, The Nunnery, Thetford, Norfolk IP24 
2PU, UK 

Arrival of the Yellow Wagtails: 
The tribulations of an amateur birdwatcher 

On 4 October 1997, during World Bird watch '97, Andrew Walker and I were 
walking about on a large grassland adjacent to the grounds of St Andrew's 
School in Turi (0°10'S, 35°25°E at 2,700 m altitude). We were hoping to bag 
some plovers and pipits, chats and widowbirds for the count. The field was 
empty, there was hardly a bird about save some starlings and crows in the 
distance and a very handsome young Augur Buzzard on a dead tree. 

It was overcast, the cloud base being barely 2,0Q0 feet, it was cold and windy 
and we were wondering whether it would rain. It was about 3 pm when we saw 
a flock of birds approaching from the north-east. We were unable to make out 
what they were, but they were flying in a straight line towards us, forming a 
dense cloud. At first they were high, but then they started to spiral down and 
now resembled a swarm of bees. We could count about a hundred but then there 
was another and yet another flock, maybe as many as five altogether and the 
birds descended and landed all around us. They were Yellow Wagtails! Just 
where we stood, suddenly there were wagtails everywhere, at one time as many 
as one to every four or so square meters, and they were very tame, not bothered 
by us, eagerly feeding and chasing each other. Among them was a single 
Northern Wheatear that we thought may have arrived in the company of the 
wagtails — or was attracted by them, for it surely was not there before! 

More and more wagtails kept arriving and soon the whole field was covered 
with them. 

We are not wagtail specialists, but even to our amateur eye, it was obvious 
that the flock consisted of several races: some were very yellow, others rather 
grey, others again had a greenish tinge. Some had very marked eye stripes, yet 
others had much dark on the head and face (black or perhaps very dark blue). 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 77 

We had Van Perlo's guide with us but had not lugged along the heavier 
books. Van Perlo on Plate 61 shows seven races. We had around us at least three 
if not four of these: certainly, flava and thunbergi, probably lutea and beema, 
possibly superciliosus (transposed in Van Perlo: 'g' and T being mixed up). 

We had other things to do: birdwatch duty was calling so after a while we left 
the field and the wagtails. 

So our observation can be summarized thus: we witnessed the arrival of a 
compound flock consisting of several races of Yellow Wagtails on a field in Turi 
where up to that moment there was not a single wagtail. 

The verification of the observation requires arduous book work. Britton's 
Birds of East Africa confirms that Yellow Wagtails can be seen in the Kenyan rift 
valley up to 3,000 m altitude from September to April, that they may frequent 
cultivation and open bushland and that various races occur, including flava and 
thumbergi (and flava-thunbergi intermediates!), that superciliosus has been 
caught in Nairobi, and that lutea and beema are more likely to be seen in the east 
of the country. 

But where do all these wagtails come from and, if the various races are 
allopatric in their breeding areas, where do they join up? 

My Collins photographic guide of birds of Britain and Europe contains five 
photographs of yellow wagtails. Three of these (nos 518, 519 and 520) we have 
seen at Turi but these photographs are difficult to match up with the Van Perlo 
pictures. The nearest one gets is to confirm flava and thunbergi and feldegg. The 
text (page 583-4) says that flavissima is the British race, feldegg breeds in the 
Balkans and that, in any case, in winter plumage all yellow wagtails look more 
or less alike. 

But in Turi they did not look alike! 

In Birds of Africa (Keith, Urban & Fry, Vol. IV) pages 198-202 are devoted 
to the Yellow Wagtails. Eleven races and three hybrid populations are to be 
chosen from but it is said that in winter plumage they are difficult to distinguish. 
However on plate 1 1 several non-breeding plumages are shown among the many 
breeding ones. Studying the pictures together with the text we can confirm flava 
and thunbergi now with certainty but there are no pictures and no description of 
the flava/thunbergi hybrids. 

As to the home ranges, this book gives "Central Europe east to the Urals" for 
flava and "Norway East to Northern Siberia" for thunbergi. It does say that the 
two intergrade. 

Going back to my old Mackworth-Praed and Grant Handbook of African 
Birds (where all the Motacilla flava races are still treated as different Budytes 
species) I find that the little migration maps do admirably correspond to the 
various data found in the other volumes. 



78 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



Finally, I looked up the matter in our new bible, Zimmerman, Turner and 
Pearson's Birds of Kenya and northern Tanzania. Here I found on page 506 
corroboration for the likelihood of flava and probability for beema and lutea but 
I also found new information: namely that in first winter coat most yellow 
wagtails look like females and that all of them have much white in their feathers. 
Plate 69 shows various plumages, including some in winter but there is nothing 
about hybrids and their looks. 

But none of the books I perused tells us where the races we saw at Turi (and 
they were three, if not four, even giving allowance for dimorphic females) may 
have joined: did they cross the Middle East together or did they rendezvous 
somewhere in the Rift — perhaps only a few kilometers from Turi? — Imre 
Loefler, P O Box 47964, Nairobi 




Shining Sunbird — Edwin Selempo 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



79 



Threatened birds of Kenya 
10: Williams's Lark Mirafra williamsi 

Don Turner 
P O Box 48019, Nairobi 



It was only in June 1955 that the late John G. Williams (former curator of birds 
at the Coryndon, now National, Museum of Kenya) came across, and later 
collected a new species of lark on the south-western slopes of Mt Marsabit in 
northern Kenya. 

In 1956, J. D. Macdonald of the Natural History Museum in London, duly 
named the bird Williams's Lark Mirafra williamsi, and today it remains one of 
the least known of Kenya's endemic bird species. It lives in the most 
inhospitable of habitats — rocky lava desert with sparse grass cover and low 
Barleria shrubs, and with temperatures often in excess of 35°C. 






/K 4u 



Williams's Lark — Edwin Selempo 



80 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

Like so many others of the family, Williams's Lark has few distinguishing 
features, other than its heavy, pale pink or brownish-grey bill. The general 
colour of its upperparts varies from rufous to deep vinous-brown or blackish, 
matching the red or black soils and lava rocks of its barren sub-desert habitat. 

Two colour morphs occur, the more common one rufous, with rufous-brown 
ear-coverts and pectoral patches, the other a dark blackish morph with sides of 
face and pectoral patches blackish-chestnut. The lower throat and breast in both 
forms is mottled or spotted with dark brown or chestnut, becoming pale buffish 
on the lower belly and under tail coverts. The primaries are boldly rufous-edged, 
often forming a long and fairly conspicuous panel on the closed wing. Most 
individuals also show a fairly prominent buffy or rufous-buff supercilium which 
joins a whitish post-auricular area. 

Williams's Lark is highly secretive at all times, scuttling almost rodent-like 
as it feeds among rocks and low Barleria shrubs. It rarely perches above ground 
other than on low rocks or stones, where it generally stands high to escape the 
often searing-hot substrate. Although rarely taking flight, males do display 
briefly at sunrise, in a slow, jerky, and somewhat laboured song-flight, uttering a 
sharp 'tsur-SREET' call note with each forward flap of their broad wings. 

Throughout its disjunct range in the Dida Galgalla Desert and to the northeast 
of Isiolo from the Shaba National Reserve to Garba Tula District, it occurs 
alongside the Masked Lark Spizocorys personata, and in several parts of its 
range both are relatively common and easily observed. Nevertheless to date, the 
nest, eggs and breeding biology of Williams's Lark remain totally undescribed, 
and as such offer opportunities to all ardent students of Kenyan ornithology to 
give due attention to this little known endemic of ours. 

Van Perlo Corrections Corner no. 2 

Compiled by Colin Jackson 
P O Box 383, Watamu 

The Collins Illustrated Checklist to the birds of east Africa by Ber van Perlo is a 
very useful addition to the field guides available for East Africa — but as 
pointed out in previous issues of Kenya Birds, it does contain quite a few 
mistakes in the text, plates and maps. 

This is the second instalment of our 'corrections corner' that will draw 
attention to mistakes that book users discover — incorrect colours on the plates, 
text that is clearly wrong, wrong or mis-numbered maps, and so on. Note these 
errors in your copies to make the book more useful for your birding, and avoid 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 81 

being misled into wrong identifications. If Collins ever puts out a second 
edition, perhaps these corrections will be taken into account as well. 

There are probably more mistakes lurking out there — please send in details 
of any problems that you've noted, for our Corrections Corner no. 3! 

Plate 73.15, Brown Parisoma. 

Problem: Illustration shows bird with pale eye — it should be dark. 

Plate 33.6, 7, & 8, African, Great and Common Snipe. 

Problem: Text correctly states that Common and African Snipe are the same size 
and that Great Snipe is larger. However, illustrations show Common as being the 
largest and Great as the smallest. 

Plate 37.11, Sooty Tern. 

Problem: Illustration is again misleading in that this tern is significantly larger 
than species such as Common, Roseate and Lesser Crested Terns (the latter 
being incorrectly illustrated as almost half as large again). 

Plate 69.11, African Yellow Warbler. 

Problem: Crown illustrated as being nearly the same colour as mantle — should 
in fact be noticeably darker, which in fact is how its 'standard' name describes 
it: Dark-capped Yellow Warbler. 

Plate 81.12, Amethyst Sunbird. 

Problem: Illustration shows tail as being relatively long — it is in fact about half 
the length shown. 

The art of the Bird Bottle 

Kimbo Beakbane 
P O Box 20, Kericho 

We've got Bird Tables, we've got Bird Baths — now add to the fun of your 
garden birds, while entertaining yourself and friends, with 'Bird Bottles'. This is 
a fascinating and easy way to introduce adults and children of any age to bird 
watching and recording. 

What is a 'bird bottle'? Well, a bird bath is a shallow bowl of water for birds 
to drink and bathe in, a bird table is for providing (solid) food for birds, and a 
bird bottle is how you can provide liquid food in the form of sugar solution 



82 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

('synthetic nectar', one could call it) for those birds which feed on that high- 
energy source of nutrition. A bird bottle is therefore designed to attract sunbirds 
in particular, but as you will find out if you try it yourself, a surprising diversity 
of species are lured to this simple, but effective, bird-attractor. 
Like all good ideas the basic concept is very simple: 

• Use a transparent glass bottle, which will be easy to clean and gives weight 

in windy conditions. I use 150 ml 'Kikkoman Soy Sauce' bottles — the flat, 
tough plastic screw-on lid, with two lateral holes, is ideal. 

• You also need a one litre (transparent) plastic bottle, cut horizontally in two 

approximately one-third the way up from the base — discard the bottom 
section. Transparent materials are best for both bottles as it means that you 
can see when the liquid needs replenishing at a glance. 

• Pierce two holes opposite each other and approximately 1 cm up from the cut 

edge of the top section of the plastic bottle. Through these, thread a piece of 
string, about 30 cm long, knotting it securely at each side, to create a 
longish loop. 

• Next comes the tricky part: cut very carefully round the neck of the plastic 

bottle to leave an opening large enough, such that when the smaller, glass 
bottle is placed inside, its lid protrudes, but not so large as to allow it to fall 
out. This is the permanent 'sling' for the Bird Bottle. There will be many 
different ways to achieve this objective, but I prefer, after trial and error, 
this permanent sling — it is so easy, neat and functional. Accidental spillage 
of the liquid is avoided by careful cutting of the plastic sling and the weight 
of the glass Bird Bottle itself. 

• Having decided on the site (for which see below), take a stout unbrushed 

stick, i.e. with small twigs/branches left uncut, making it very 'user 
friendly' by providing perches for birds, and secure the stake in position. 

• Attach the string loop of the 'sling' to the stick — I use a form of water-proof 

sticky tape — ensuring that the sling hangs conveniently amongst the twigs. 

• Fill the glass bottle with a solution of honey and water, sugar and water, or 

any such mixture you like, and secure the screw-on lid. 

• Holding the sling in one hand, slide the now-filled glass bottle and gently let 

it hang upside-down (when the liquid needs replenishing reverse the 
process — holding the 'sling' in one hand, slide the glass bottle out, refill 
and slide it in again). 

• Then sit back and let the fun begin! 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 83 










S\c\«*\ leof 



Vek fr *f cU^ 






& r 











•fn»^*p«.r«itr pk-S*»t ^>#«- 










84 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



Siting the Bird Bottle 

'If at first you don't succeed, try, try and try again'. 

My most popular sites are those which are surrounded by plants or scrub, 
giving the birds cover. Open sites tend to be avoided by all species. 

I have found that placing Bird Bottles on or adjacent to bird tables, 
particularly if they have fruit, attracts swarms of bees. Away from the tables the 
occasional bee presents no problem. 

Using an unbrushed stake to hold the Bird Bottle, instead of a plant, shrub or 
tree, allows for more flexibility when choosing or moving sites. The twiglets are 
also ideal for perching and queuing — yes, birds obviously knew about 
'queuing' before we did! 

A few tips and hints 

For a more dramatic effect food colourings can be used in the liquid — reds, 
oranges and yellows seem to be the most popular with the birds. Light green is 
tolerated, but dark greens and blues are rejected. Any plain, un-sugared water, 
whether it be colourless, coloured, tap or filtered, surprisingly is also rejected, 
even in the hottest weather. 

With prolonged usage the glass bottle can become encrusted, but it's easy to 
scrub the inside clean by using an old tooth brush and some bicarbonate of soda 
dissolved in water. When the 'sling' becomes discoloured throw it away and 
make a new one. 

If a note book and biro are left near the site(s), together with a large bottle of 
(your) solution for rapid replenishing of the Bird Bottle(s), it encourages 
everyone to participate actively. Very quickly a Bird Bottle Diary emerges, full 
of interesting and amusing anecdotes, lists of species, strange sightings etc. and 
becomes a useful and permanent data source from which much information can 
be extracted, e.g. breeding records, confirmation of resident status in your area, 
monthly species movements, etc. 

With the constant activity around the well-sited Bird Bottle, 'birding' parents 
of babes and/or toddlers will find it a great source of amusement while 
germinating the 'birding' bug early. 

I am constantly besieged with the question 'what solution do you use'? To 
which the only answer is, once more, 'Try, try, and try again'! I have 
experimented with cane sugar, local honey, imported honey, glucose, pure 
glycerine, plain water, various combinations of two or more of the above, 
varying dilutions with water, colours added, natural coloration or plain. The 
birds will show their preference — and the fun is endless. 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 85 

Ringing at Ngulia, 1997/98 

Graeme Backhurst 
P O Box 15194, Nairobi 

The effects of el nino had a dominating influence on the weather in Kenya at the 
end of 1997 and early in 1998. The composition of the catch of Palaearctic 
migrants at Ngulia was also affected. Nevertheless, the total number of migrants 
ringed (17,232) was actually the third highest ever. For the first time, the Ngulia 
Ringing Group was joined by two teams of Earthwatch participants. 

First period 

Nairobi recorded 200 mm of rain in October 1997 and Tsavo was very green 
when an advance team arrived on 31 October. However, the only migrant seen 
during the 50-km drive through the park was a single Spotted Flycatcher. No 
wheatears, shrikes or swallows — a decidedly odd situation and a warning, as it 
turned out, of things to come! 

The new moon night of 31 October/1 November was misty, with no birds. 
Three 60-foot nets set from just before dawn on 1st produced just a Sprosser and 
a Whitethroat. The following three nights, even with mist and showers on two, 
resulted in only 36 migrants caught. For comparison, 29, 30 and 3 1 October 
1995 produced a total of 248 migrants ringed. 

Second, main period 

When Ngulia Ringing Group members drove in on 22 November they judged 
the vegetation to be some three weeks ahead of normal with impressive 
flowering of Thunbergia holstii. Good mist, and often very heavy rain, featured 
on most dates until 6 December, but bird numbers were lower than expected. 

The species composition was also odd. Marsh Warbler was, as usual, 
dominant (7,276 ringed, the second highest ever), followed by Sprosser (2,870) 
and Whitethroat (2,406). The historically fourth most-ringed species, the River 
Warbler, only made 6th place during this period (225), trailing behind Red- 
backed Shrike (277, second highest yearly total) and Willow Warbler (237). 
Many of the 'minor' species were way down on expected numbers; for instance, 
there were only 40 Barn Swallows ringed, 34 Red-tailed Shrikes, eight Eurasian 
Nightjars (and one in the first period), seven Rufous Bush Chats, 19 Basra Reed, 
14 Olivaceous and ten Upcher's Warblers. Compensations were few. Olive-tree 
Warblers were surprisingly plentiful (141) and, proportionately, slightly above 
the percentage in any previous year. There were scarcely any rarely-caught 



86 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 



/ 







Pied Wheatear — Edwin Selempo 

species: two Asian Lesser Cuckoos, one Eurasian Cuckoo, and one Whinchat. 
Over the years, Common House Martins have often been seen over Ngulia, even 
sitting on the buildings, but hitherto have never been caught. A concerted effort 
this year using a tape lure in front of the dining room resulted in 29 being 
ringed. 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 87 

Third period 

The Lodge was manned from 23 December to 5 January by National Museums 
of Kenya personnel and Earthwatch volunteers. Many of the nights were misty 
but, as often seems to happen towards the end of the migration, bird numbers 
were very variable. Nevertheless, 3,082 migrants were ringed, although the 
number of species was only 18. Once more Marsh Warbler was top (1,436), with 
Common Whitethroat now in second place (1,159); Sprosser, true to form, was 
down to 251, followed by River Warbler in its 'true' fourth position (98). The 
sole unusual migrant caught was a Eurasian Cuckoo on 3 January. 

Weights 

With a good deal of torrential rain, the catch of 30 November contained a high 
proportion of very fat birds, with Marsh Warblers up to 17.2 g, Whitethroat to 
20.0 g, Willow Warbler to 12.5 g, and Sprosser to 33.4 g. In the third period, 
heavy birds predominated throughout with Marsh up to 18.2 g, River to 23.5 g, 
Whitethroat to 20.5 g, and Sprosser to 32.0 g. 

Visible migration and sightings 

In early November there was a light southerly passage of Sooty Falcons, with 
birds passing during the morning and afternoon, plus one sitting in light rain on 
a dead tree in front of the lodge at 04:45 on 4th. There were several sightings of 
Amur Falcons (up to 200) in late November, and a male flew round for a few 
seconds at high speed at night on 30th before alighting on a dead tree where it 
remained in torrential rain and superbly visible for the next half hour. There 
were a few Booted Eagle sightings in late November, a female Eurasian 
Sparrowhawk on 5 December and a Corncrake on 1st. 

Afrotropicals 

The Afrotropical ringing total was the second highest at 797, but did include 205 
Red-billed Quelea. No less than twelve species were new for the ringing list, 
pride of place going to an Allen's Gallinule lifted off the top of one of the 
manicured bushes just over the verandah wall at night on 30 November, 
immediately after a magnificent Mottled Swift had been picked up from the 
ground of the open verandah! The Mottled Swift had last been caught in 1972. 
Nightjars were very scarce indeed, only 12 Plain and one Dusky being ringed. 
Several other species which sometimes feature in nocturnal movements were not 
caught at all (e.g., Common Button Quail, kingfishers, Golden Pipit, African 
Paradise Flycatcher, and Red-capped Robin-Chat). Larks, though, were 'well' 
represented: three individuals of three species — Singing Bush Lark, Red- 
winged Lark and Chestnut-backed Sparrow-Lark — but no Friedmann's Larks 



88 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

which were, however, singing in an area of recently burnt grass some 35 km to 
the west. 

Earthwatch 

Manpower was considerably augmented this year by the presence of two 
Earthwatch contingents. Earthwatch enables volunteers to participate in and 
provide support to research projects around the world. In the second period we 
hosted a group of ten Earthwatch Fellows from several African countries, and in 
the final period ten volunteers from the UK and USA. The mix of different 
nationalities, together with the mix of nationalities of regular NRG members, 
worked smoothly together. 

Recoveries and controls 

The total numbers of recoveries and controls of birds caught at Ngulia now 
stands at 2 Afrotropicals and 94 Palaearctics. During the current season's 
catching there was only a single control, a Marsh Warbler from the eastern 
German Hiddensee ringing scheme; it had been ringed in Thuringen in June 
1993. During 1997 a further 13 recoveries were notified. They were an 
interesting bunch: a Harlequin Quail to Soroti, NW Uganda; no less than five 
Sprossers, of which three were to the North Sinai area of Egypt (the other two 
were to Russia); an Olive-tree Warbler to the lower Zambezi River in 
Mozambique; and six Marsh Warblers to the Middle East and Europe. It is likely 
that the Harlequin Quail and the Olive-tree Warbler are the first recoveries of 
these species anywhere. 

We heard in April 1997 that the River Warbler we controlled at Ngulia in 
December 1996 had been ringed in Slovakia in May 1994, and this too is 
probably the first long-distance recovery for the species. 

In the second period there were three retraps of birds ringed at Ngulia in 
previous seasons. All were Marsh Warblers, two from November 1995, both 
retrapped twice this season, and one from December 1996. There were no 
previous-season retraps in the other two periods. 

Acknowledgements 

Thanks as always to all the ringing team (57 strong this year, including the 
Earthwatch contingent!), to Kenya Wildlife Service and the Ngulia Lodge 
management, and to the Wetland Trust, British Airways Assisting Conservation 
and Earthwatch for vital financial help. 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 89 

In memoriam 

Gurner Cunningham-van Someren, 

1913-1997 

'Chum' van Someren, Ornithologist Emeritus of the National 
Museums of Kenya and for many years Curator of the bird collection, 
died in August 1997. The following tribute to Chum is part of an 
address delivered by Ian Parker at a memorial gathering in September 
1997. 

"Van Someren is a Dutch name. In the last century, however, a family of 
Van Somerens became British. By the time that Vemon (or V.G.L. as he 
was known) van Someren joined the British East Africa Protectorate 
Medical Service in 1910, these van Somerens were Cunningham-van 
Somerens and as Scottish as Meinertzhagen was English. Gurner (or 
Chum) Cunningham van Someren was the first of seven children born to 
Vernon and Elizabeth van Someren, and outlived them all. 

As a good Scot, Chum was educated at Herriott Watts and attended an 
agricultural college. One of his first undertakings on returning to Kenya in 
1933 was to build the house he lived in for the rest of his life, here on 
Miotoni. His early employment was varied. Among many things, he laid 
the original Karen Estates water pipelines and helped build the Karen golf 
course. As an employee of the Nairobi Municipal Council's Health Service, 
he was briefly Nairobi's head rat catcher. 

Chum was a gregarious and sociable young man who played tennis and 
golf (according to his wife, he had a terrible slice), enjoyed bird shooting, 
was a keen fisherman, and had a fine singing voice that he was not shy of 
using. He was also slightly eccentric. He always dressed formally for 
dinner — black tie and dinner jacket - insisting that his servant also be 
formally attired in white kanzu, red cummerbund and fez. Nothing was 
allowed to upset the ritual — even when as a lone bachelor the meal was no 
more than fish and chips. In later years flashes of this eccentricity 
reappeared in nonsense songs rendered in full voice while capering on the 
beach at Watamu in the dead of night. 

Late in the 1930s he joined Pest Control, a Quin Geering company that 
was the forerunner of Fisons. With the exception of war service in the 
Royal Army Medical Corps in Ethiopia and Somaliland — where he 
worked on mosquito control — he was to stay with the Company for the 
rest of his official working career. In 1938 he met Eleanor MacDonald, 



90 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

whom he married in 1940. Fisons, and even more, Eleanor, steadied Chum 
somewhat: as employers and wives usually do. 

Eleanor MacDonald was born in Uganda, but educated in Scotland. 
Aged 18 and having passed her Scottish 'highers' she returned to East 
Africa. Joining the Medical Research Laboratories and despite no formal 
training, she was quickly established as a technician in the pathology 
section. Later she switched to entomology, which became her forte, and she 
developed into a world authority on African mosquitoes. In recognition she 
was awarded an Honorary Doctorate by Brunei University. Not only was 
Eleanor Chum's loving helpmate, but her first-class brain kept up with and 
stimulated his own scientific research. 

After the war Chum grew a beard, did not sing as much as he once had 
and Eleanor presented him with two sons. The three phenomena may or 
may not have been connected. Chum loved his sons and enjoyed them and 
their company immensely. Yet he was not a 'good father' in the modern 
sense, believing that rearing children was a wife's job. 

Eleanor did not like Chum's beard particularly, but conceded that — jet 
black, neatly clipped and fulsome — it was a handsome beard in as far as 
beards go. Chum was quite vain about it. Between 1963 and 1968 he had to 
spend three months a year on the Gezira cotton project in Sudan. The 
Sudanese won Chum's heart in several ways, but especially through their 
admiration for his beard. As people with a fine eye for such things, this 
tickled his vanity no end. From his Sudan days onward, Chum refused to 
trim his beard again. The fine black growth evolved into the wild greying, 
prophet's growth we all knew in latter times. 

In his career Chum van Someren was a hard-working company man 
who concentrated upon insect pests, but could turn his hand to anything, 
going further than most company men would hold reasonable. Many of the 
experiments on plants undertaken for Fisons were carried out on his own 
property here at Miotoni. Characteristically, when he did something, he 
undertook it without reservation, throwing everything into finding the right 
answer. 

Then there was the other Chum: van Someren the naturalist. In this he 
followed his eminent father's footsteps. With a Victorian's insatiable 
curiosity, throughout his life he was fascinated by nature and never ceased 
to marvel at the life about him. Over the years he became a veritable 
encyclopaedia, not only on Africa's natural history, but the whole planet's. 
And he gave out his knowledge freely and enthusiastically. Anyone who 
asked was given whatever he knew in full measure. 

Chum was a compulsive note taker and diarist. He wrote many papers, 
though they were fewer than he might have produced, given the 



Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 91 

information at his disposal. He did not write up all his material because his 
primary interest was discovery and not reporting. He was one of those 
whose interest was doing and not the fame of having done. 

After a professional career dominated by entomology, when Chum left 
Fisons he became the National Museum's ornithologist. When he retired 
for the second time, the Museum made him Ornithologist Emeritus. While 
he loved all nature, his work with birds pleased him best and gave him 
greatest satisfaction. He, and his father V.G.L. van Someren, were 
outstanding naturalists, contributing more than any other two men to East 
Africa's ornithology and entomology this century. 

Chum was a man who could have, some would say should have, been 
better known than he was. He was charitable, liked people and had a loving 
family. Without question he benefited his fellow humans, lived a long and 
happy life, and shared this happiness with others. His time was well used. 
He is now gone. That he be mourned is inevitable and right. Yet it was the 
nature of the man to prefer being remembered, not with a tear, but a smile 
between friends with noggins in hand, recalling incidents past. A formal 
funeral was not his style. He was not religious. Chum marvelled at Nature, 
saw it as a grand act of creation and mystery immensely beyond human 
comprehension — which is where he left it." 

Leon Bennun adds: "I first met Chum 'properly' only in the early 1980s. His 
wild, white beard, flashing spectacles and no-nonsense manner were intimidating 
to a degree, especially to a neophyte ornithologist rather lacking in self- 
confidence. While Chum's enormous knowledge of East African natural history 
was immediately apparent, it took longer to appreciate his willingness to share 
that knowledge with whoever asked, his passionate concern for and love of 
nature, and his fundamental kindness as a person. Chum made enormous 
contributions to ornithology in Kenya, and to the Museum in particular — 
including starting the forerunner of Kenya Birds, 'Museum Avifauna News'. His 
interest in the Ornithology Department continued long after his retirement as 
Ornithologist Emeritus. While he rarely made a personal appearance, letters in 
his distinctive, elegant, looped handwriting appeared on my desk at frequent 
intervals after I took over the running of the Department. These often contained 
quite pointed criticisms — Chum was rarely shy to make his professional 
feelings known. However, such comments were never made gratuitously, but out 
of genuine concern for the proper approach in matters ornithological (and they 
undoubtedly helped to keep us on our toes!) Chum was an immense reservoir of 
wisdom and knowledge; his passing, after a long and very productive life, in 
many ways marks the end of an era in Kenyan ornithology. As we look towards 
an uncertain and challenging future, he will be greatly missed." 



92 Kenya Birds Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2, December 1997 

Events and Announcements 

Coming soon! Important Bird Areas in Kenya, to be published by the 
EANHS, identifies, maps and describes 60 critical conservation sites and the 
key bird species they contain. For pre-publication information, contact the 
EANHS office. 

Wednesday Morning Bird Walks continue weekly. Meet at 8:45 am at the 
National Museums entrance for a walk in the Nairobi area. These walks are for 
EANHS members: non-members are welcome but requested to join the 
Society (see below). 

The East Africa Natural History Society offers lectures, excursions and 
publications with a strong bird focus and organises ringing and nest record 
schemes in Eastern Africa. For membership details: tel. 749957, or write to the 
Hon. Secretary, EANHS, P O Box 44486 Nairobi. The office at the National 
Museums of Kenya is open each weekday 09:30 to 15:30. 

National Birdmap. The Ornithology Department's biogeographic database 
needs YOUR bird records! ! For your free National Birdmap checklists, contact 
the Department. 

Birding Hotline! Phone the EANHS on Nairobi 749957 to hear the latest and to 
report any unusual records. 

Scopus, the lively regional journal of ornithology, is published by the EANHS 
Ornithological Sub-committee. Contact Don Turner, P O Box 48019, Nairobi, 
Kenya (tel. Nairobi 48133). 

African Bird Club. The ABC provides a worldwide focus for African ornithol- 
ogy and its colour Bulletin is second to none. For membership details, write to 
the Kenyan ABC representative: Colin Jackson, P O Box 383 Watamu (e-mail 
cj-jacko@bigfoot.com) 

Regional birding groups are now active in Kakamega, Kinangop, Mombasa, 
Naivasha and Watamu, among other places. For information and addresses, 
contact Solomon Ngari at the EANHS. 

EANHS Nest Record Card Scheme. For information and cards, contact Joseph 
Oyugi at the Department of Ornithology, National Museums of Kenya 
(address below). 

CONTACTS: For Kenya Birds, write to the Department of Ornithology, 
National Museums of Kenya, P O Box 40658, Nairobi, e-mail 
kbirds@africaonline.co.ke or telephone 742131/61, extension 243. For the 
EANHS and its Bird Committee, telephone Nairobi 749957; fax 741049, or e- 
mail eanhs@africaonline.co.ke. 



Contents, continued 

Notes 64 

Birds of prey at Tudor Creek, Mombasa 64 

Birding along Nairobi streets 65 

Lekking bustards 67 

Common Button-quail breeding in Nairobi National Park ....67 

Two Nairobi cuckoo records 68 

Little Egret feeding on Omena in Lake Victoria ., 68 

A week from the note-book of a Rift Valley birder 69 

Seven Grey Parrots in Kakamega 70 

Road of doom 71 

Ross's Turaco in Murang'a? 71 

Caring for sick and injured raptors 71 

Temminck's Coursers overshadow Malindi Pipits 73 

A surprise visitor: Bar-tailed Trogon in the Nairobi Arboretum ..74 

Wood Warbler Phylloscopus sibilatrix at Mida Creek 75 

Arrival of the Yellow Wagtails: The tribulations of an amateur birdwatcher 76 

Threatened birds of Kenya 10: Williams's Lark 79 

Van Perlo Corrections Corner no. 2 80 

The art of the Bird Bottle 81 

Ringing at Ngulia 1997/8 85 

Inmemoriam. Gurner Cunningham- van Someren, 1913-1997 89 

Events and announcements 92 

Request for information: Common Kestrels 11 

Erratum 63 

Sponsors of Kenya Bird* 63 




Black-capped Social Weavers by Edwin Selempo — one of the illustrations for the 
upcoming EANHS book, "Important Bird Areas in Kenya' (see p. 92). This species is 
characteristic of the Somali-Masai biome in Kenya 



Kenya Birds, Volume 6, Numbers 1 & 2: December 1997 



Contents 



Editorial ii 

News from Kenya and abroad 49 

Department of Ornithology 1 

East Africa Natural History Society 12 

International 13 

World Birdwatch '97: A special report 15 

Birding in... the Samburu, Buffalo Springs and Shaba Game Reserves 29 

The birds of prey of Ololokwi 36 

Records 41 

Afrotropical species 44 

Falaearctic species 55 

Breeding records 57 

Contents continued inside back cover 




Olive-tree Warbler — Edwin Se tempo